Arts

Choral group provides rural residents place to enjoy music, perform

Chorale2By Jennifer Pund
PEAK TO PEAK
Attracting members across the Front Range, The Peak to Peak Chorale provides a place for the rural residents of Gilpin and neighboring counties a place to celebrate what they love: singing with others. The group begins rehearsals, Sept. 16, for its annual holiday and spring performances. Every Wednesday evening from September to early May, the mountain neighbors gather at the Gilpin County Library to enjoy music, singing and performing.

The free Christmas concerts are a way for the group to give back and the spring dramatic performance is always different year to year. The unique scripts draw from the history of surrounding areas.

Local musicians and singers in rural areas say it can be challenging to find a place to enjoy their music and perform. “If you are involved in a church, there is an outlet. Otherwise, just generally in the community, it’s hard to find a place where you can enjoy singing with other people,” member Cora Jean Lane said. “I think that’s just a real draw. There are a lot of people who just enjoy singing.”

John Magee, a retired music teacher and director, and Ginny Flack, a life long musician and church organist, decided to start the Peak to Peak Chorale in 1992 for that very reason. “[They] really felt it was important to do something to build community after gambling came in and kind of turned the whole Black Hawk and Central City communities inside out and upside down,” Lane explained. “A lot of our community gathering places and organizations had kind of gotten disrupted.”

When founded, the group performed Christmas and spring concerts, and in 1997 did its first dramatic musical in the spring. “We still do Christmas Concerts every year in the various communities like Nederland, Coal Creek, Black Hawk or Central City and, maybe, the recreation center,” Lane said. “Whereever we can find a venue, really.”

Singers from Idaho Springs, Nederland, Coal Creek and Golden Gate Canyons are invited to participate. “That’s one reason we’re called the Peak to Peak Chorale, because we draw from that broad of an area,” Director Ann Wyss explained.  Some members who have lived in the area, but for various reasons had to move down below, still make it up for practice and our concerts, too.

Today, the Peak to Peak Chorale consists of about 25 to 30 people, but the group is always looking for more residents who enjoy singing. “We are always interested in knowing about people who would enjoy playing a role in one of our dramatic theater productions,” Lane said. “Our primary focus is always the music, so that kind of drives what we do. We’ve done some pretty interesting historical performances.”

ChoraleSince 1997, the Chorale has performed a historical drama musical theater each spring. “It’s always an original script that’s written about some aspect of the history of our local area,” Lane said. The group has performed stories about the Gold Rush, Doc Susie from Fraser, the Cornish Miners, and the Murder of Emily Griffith in Pinecliffe. This year the group will perform their traditional dinner theater play about Gilpin County’s Stroehle Brothers and their tragic death in a mine collapse.

The ability to read music is not required or even needed to join the group.  “Ann prepares practice CDs for each part, for every performance that we do, so even people who can’t read music can listen to the CD and learn their part. I think that’s been a real asset and has really helped. Even for people that can read music, it can be helpful,” Lane said.

This year the group begins rehearsals on September 16, in the community room at the Gilpin County Library. These practices lead up to a series of Christmas Concerts performed around the area. “Our Christmas Concerts usually start with the Tommyknockers Holiday Market in Central City and we sing for the Potluck and the Teller House,” Wyss said.

“We always do the lighting of the Christmas Tree in Central City, then proceed up the hill singing Christmas Carols to the Teller House,” Lane said. “That is really neat because we are in the upstairs of the Historic Teller House where people don’t usually get to see with the chandeliers and fancy wall paper and velvet curtains. It’s furnished Victorian Style and we often will dress sort of Victorian, the men in top hats. It’s really neat.”

Aside from the Central City Holiday performances, the group also can be seen at the Nederland Holiday Market and Coal Creek Canyon Improvement Association Hall and usually another in the Black Hawk area. “All of the Christmas [concerts] are free,” Wyss said. “That’s our gift to the community.”

To join the Peak to Peak Choral, call Ann Wyss at 303-642-0276 or come to the Gilpin County Library, 15131  Hwy. 119, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. There is a $25 fee per semester (holiday or spring) to cover the cost of music.

Originally published int he Sept. 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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