It started in 1874 at lake Chautauqua in western New York State and swept the country, spreading in all directions. It started as a summer opportunity to train Sunday School teachers and developed into a ‘movement’ that brought culture to rural America in the form of nature studies, music, oration and the arts. The Boulder Chautauqua started in 1898 and it’s one of the few remaining sites that has preserved its original buildings. With the coming of the automobile, radio and movies the popularity of the Chautauqua Movement waned and the original sites around the country were erased. However Boulder managed to hold on and today it’s recognized as the Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark, the only “Chautauqua” west of the Mississippi that has been in continuous operation since its founding with its original structures still intact and used for their original purposes.
Front Range chapters of the Barbershop Harmony Society have been gathering for decades each August to present a combined concert in the historic wood structure with its original wood benches and see-through plank walls. Choruses from Boulder, Lakewood, Northglenn, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Longmont and even Rapid City, South Dakota gather to sing as part of the Colorado Chautauqua Association’s summer concert series. The 2016 event took place on August 20 and was directed by Sound of the Rockies director, Mark Hale.