When the Elk Meadow Lodge requested a reunion performance by the Elktones this summer, it was to reunite all four members of the Estes Park folk band. But when the band plays on Spur 66 next week, there will only be three members on stage. Dick Orleans, Elktones bandmember and beloved Estes Park musician, passed away in May, leaving behind a community of devastated fans and a full schedule of unplayed shows.
During the thirty years that he lived in Estes Park, Orleans became a kind of local institution, known for his generosity and his dedication to helping new musicians get their start. "Everyone knew him and everyone loved him," says Brad Fitch, one of Orleans's Elktones bandmates. The Elktones had not performed together since 2012, and Orleans's passing means they will never officially reunite. But the remaining trio (Brad Fitch, Mark Rashid and Brad Dogget) has agreed to play the scheduled Elktones concerts in Dick's honor.
On July 19, the first of the band's performances will serve as a memorial for Orleans with all funds raised donated to the Craighead Institute's Pika Project, an animal-preservation project Orleans worked closely with over the past five years. Fitch says Orleans (a nature lover and photographer) felt a real kinship with the little rodents, even seemed to have a relationship with them. "It takes a really patient, gentle person to get close to pikas," Fitch says, "a person like Dick." Fitch hopes the memorial will raise enough money through donations and the sale of some of his wildlife prints to make a sizable donation in Dick's memory to the pika cause.
In addition to the half-country, half-folk sounds the Elktones are known for, the concert will also feature some of Orleans's original songs performed by his fellow musicians who knew him best. "It will be bittersweet," Fitch says, "but it will be all about Dick."
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