Every Thursday evening in Centennial, men of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life gather for one purpose…..to blend their voices in unaccompanied musical harmony. On average these weekly gatherings draw up to 100 or more men from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins and all points in between. The ages of the participants range from 11 to over 80. The focus of the three hour meeting is on singing of course – which is what draws the group together in the first place. Song styles span the gamut and include patriotic, gospel, contemporary, doo-wop and show tunes. Collectively, the all-volunteer group is known as the Sound of the Rockies (or “SOR”) chorus. The group has been singing in the Denver area since 1948, and regularly performs in theater and church venues throughout the metro area.
In the fall of 2009, a group of members from the chorus decided that the enjoyment of their hobby needed to be shared to a greater extent with the community at large. In an effort to broaden awareness of the unaccompanied, or “a cappella” style of singing, the chorus offered six weekly free voice lessons to men of all ages and singing experience levels. The program was named “Ready, Set, Sing!” and was offered free to local area men with no strings attached. The only requirement was a desire to improve the singing experience. Nearly 50 men from all over the Denver metro area participated, and the success of the program exceeded expectations. Participants were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by the singers in the Sound of the Rockies chorus, and some of the “graduates” continued on singing with the SOR chorus after the event.
Two of the participants from last year’s program are Dan George of Castle Rock, and Peter Waldheim of Highlands Ranch who come from very different singing backgrounds. Dan was an experienced church choir vocalist who was looking to broaden his musical experience. Dan states “Although I had sung in church choirs for 50 years, the fundamentals covered in the classes represented to me a more concentrated focus on the basics of singing, in addition to the vocal performances. I learned to improve my singing in immeasurable ways.” Peter Waldheim, who joined Dan in the classes, says “I had never sung formally prior to this. The participants were made to feel quite welcome by all members of the Sound of the Rockies.” Waldheim adds that “I never felt any pressure to join the chorus. Rather, I was simply encouraged to sing – something that is life-enriching.” Waldheim’s 12-year old son, Keith, also completed the instructional program and is currently singing with the SOR chorus.
Other men participated simply for the fun of it. Greg Thiel of Centennial states “I was looking for opportunities to develop my personal interests, and to give my wife a few hours of peace & quiet” while David Baliki of Arvada says “I used to karaoke with my friends weekly at a local establishment. The voice lessons were great, especially for those with limited vocal experience and knowledge.”
The success of last year’s program has prompted a repeat of Ready, Set, Sing! scheduled to run through Thursday evenings (7-10 pm), Oct. 14 – Nov. 18. This year’s edition of the free voice lessons program will once again be led by SOR chorus director Darin Drown. In addition to his role in leading the Sound of the Rockies, Darin is the choral music director at Grandview High School in Aurora and his groups make frequent appearances at the annual Colorado Music Educator Association convention. He is a sought after vocal coach and clinician.
Darin brings a passion for vocal excellence to the weekly chorus meetings, but manages to keep things very light-hearted and fun. He also brings a personal touch and caring manner which resonates positively with the diverse membership. According to Darin “The program is a perfect opportunity to learn a great deal more about your own voice, and singing in general in a non-threatening environment. Additionally, if you’ve been looking for a performing outlet in a high-level ensemble, we may be able to fill that niche for you as well.” Topics in the program will include posture, breath control, resonance and use of the soft palate. Dress for the event is casual. Interested men of all ages or experience level may find out more information online at www.voicelessons4free.com.
The Sound of the Rockies chorus is a member of the Rocky Mountain District in the Barbershop Harmony Society, and they have consistently placed in the top five choruses at international level competition each year. The group also presents two shows per year at the Newman Center at the University of Denver in addition to smaller performances around the metro area. Prospective members and guests are welcomed each week at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in
Centennial, CO. More information may be obtained at www.soundoftherockies.com.
Denver Metro/Front Range Calendar Event:
Local Men’s Choral Group Offers FREE Singing Lessons – Men of all ages and singing experience are invited to participate in the second annual Ready, Set, Sing! program scheduled to run Thursday evenings (7-10 pm), Oct. 14 – Nov. 18 at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Centennial. This year’s free voice lessons (no strings attached) will once again be led by Sound of the Rockies chorus director Darin Drown. Interested men, with a love of “a cappella” singing, may find out more information online at www.voicelessons4free.com and www.soundoftherockies.com.
About the Barbershop Harmony Society: Founded in 1938 in Tulsa, Okla., the Barbershop Harmony Society (originally named the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America – SPEBSQSA) is the largest all-male singing organization in the world with nearly 30,000 members including 1500 quartets in 800 chapters. Another 4,000 barbershoppers are members of affiliated organizations in Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. BHS is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and is home to the Old Songs Library, the world’s largest privately held collection of sheet music, containing 750,000 sheets and 125,000 titles from the heyday of Tin Pan Alley. The Heritage Hall Museum of Barbershop Harmony, also located in Harmony Hall, serves as a repository for barbershop memorabilia, early recordings, costumes, research materials, and historical documents tracing the roots of the barbershop style. www.barbershop.org