Freedom Sings

The folks who started the Denver Gay and Lesbian Community Band rechristened it the Mile High Freedom Band shortly after its debut in 1984, figuring the new name better captured the essence of what the band was all about: supporting open-minded diversity and raising community awareness through music. And now, even in these buttoned-up times, the noble little band is sticking to its principles.

The all-volunteer ensemble, this year some twenty members strong, recently kicked off its 21st season and is ratcheting up efforts to reach the general public during the holidays with its Mile High Freedom Band Caroling Bus Tour. The plan? The group will spread freedom all over town in a double-decker bus, making both high- and fun-minded concert stops at a variety of public places, from Ronald McDonald House to BJ's Carousel.

Band president Leo Fua says he's heard stories about old times, when the members were "young and crazy" and the event was more of a bar-hopping venture. "But now," he notes, "it's evolved into a charitable effort." However, it still can and does evoke storybook-worthy results along the way: Last year at Ronald McDonald House, he recalls, one little girl walked up to the group in the middle of its performance and asked if she could play along. She fetched her clarinet and joined in. Bandmembers later learned she'd had open-heart surgery only two days earlier. Do they need a better reason to go out again this year?

The altruistic crew's bus leaves its favorite hangout, the Denver Detour, on Friday night for stops at Ronald McDonald House (7:30 p.m.), Dave's Place AIDS hospice (8:15 p.m.) and the Denver City and County Building (9 p.m.) before heading to stalwart gay bars BJ's and Charlie's. If you'd like to ride the bus and play along, show up at the Detour a few minutes early. Or catch performances along the way (times are approximate).

Incidentally, the Freedom Band is always looking for wind, brass and percussion players. The main requirement, Fua says, is a desire to play music.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd

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