It was a ‘Montgomery County High’ at The Music Center at Strathmore last night as five musicians took to the stage along with John Denver on video shared a heart-rendering evening of songs, stories, reflections, and music. Although there was no snow on the roads outside, within the venue you felt continually transported out west to the Centennial State and beyond – since many of the themes and messages in Denver’s songs were related to the environment and nature. This was the fifth night of the tour across twelve states from February 1st through February 23rd, with the last stop being Colorado…the state John considered his home.
The unique event – called John Denver: A Rocky Mountain High Concert – combined two mediums perfectly – high-quality videotape and live theater as John, who died in a private airplane crash over 15 years ago, shared his music and stories with those in the enthusiastic performance hall. The audience wasn’t just watching a video; musicians who had shared the stage with John Denver over the years accompanied the star. The extraordinary musicians participating in the live event were the legendary woodwind and flute player Jim Horn, fiddle and guitar player Jim Salestrom, keyboard master Chris Nole, bass guitarist Alan Deremo and Nate Barnes, who provided percussion. What made the video moments even more emotional was that you could see Chris and Jim playing in the videos with Denver.
John had quite a repertoire that numbered over 300 songs, 200 of which he personally composed. The show opened with John providing background historical perspective about his early years in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 40s. Eventually, his grandmother gave him his first guitar and enrolled him in a class to learn how to play it. That guitar became a favorite and John used to take it with him as his career blossomed and he traveled round the world. At one point, the guitar was lost and it took him five years before he and that special guitar were reunited. That’s where the song “This Old Guitar” came from and provided a sentimental point of the evening.
Denver’s opening song was “Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning).” Anyone who had followed John over the years knew he was a genius at composing music and lyrics. During the performance, we were told he composed “Annie’s Song” on a skilift trip up Ajax Mountain. After seven songs, a string quartet of four additional musicians joined the performers and provided additional enhanced back-up. Eleven songs were part of the first act ending with John taking the lead in “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
The Second Act opened with “For You” accompanied just by Chris Nole on the keyboard, certainly one which brought tears to many in the audience. It was followed by six additional Denver favorites. An announcement was made from the Stage that a special appearance was forthcoming. Bill Danoff, who lives in the Washington, DC area, joined his fellow performers and sang “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which he helped compose. It was another touching moment of the evening. The show ended with John’s anthem – his singing of “Rocky Mountain High,” which was adopted in 2007 by the State of Colorado as its second official State Song.
John’s romantic “For You”- opened the second half of the show and really exemplified the beauty of his music. It’s the perfect song for Valentine’s Day and you can watch John sing it below.
The heartfelt words of Denver’s song, “The Music is You” best defines the evening:
“Music makes pictures and often tells stories
All of it magic, all of it true
All of the pictures and all of the stories
All of the magic, the music is you.”
Running Time: Two hours and 40 minutes, including a 20 minute intermission.
John Denver: A Rocky Mountain Concert performed for one night only on February 5, 2013 at the Music Center of Strathmore- 5301 Tuckerman Lane, in North Bethesda, MD. For upcoming events, please check out their website. For those interested in catching the John Denver concert throughout its USA tour, check their tour calendar. There are 3 additional performances within 200 miles of DC this week.
John Denver’s website.