Best Reason Not to Complain About the Moody Blues Coming Back to Town This Summer
Charitable Donations by Fey Concerts
The Summer of Stars concert lineup by Fey Concerts may not be chockablock with fresh new talent; many of the performers scheduled to visit Red Rocks and Fiddler's Green this year are literally old enough to be grandparents. What is new, however, is Barry Fey's vow to donate a portion of every ticket sold to keep recreation centers in Denver open longer each day. Fey estimates that he'll raise $300,000--and he deserves a standing ovation.
Best Summer Concert Series
900 Baseline Rd., Boulder
The Chautauqua series presents itself with little hoopla and a whole lot of good taste, and the combination makes for many transcendent moments per season. Held in a barnlike auditorium, the inspired series last year included sets by Los Lobos (whose final segue into "What's Going On" nearly tore the rustic roof off the already-exhausted house), a wry Richard Thompson and an utterly delightful Randy Newman. Los Lobos returns this year, as does Thompson, while the rest of the roster branches out from country crooner Roseanne Cash to the energetic Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens and monologue master Spalding Gray.
Best Jazz Series
Creative Music Works
Promoter Alex Lemski has been bringing music to the Denver area for the past eight years, first as an individual, then through his nonprofit organization Creative Music Works. The Works is about the only group in town that will bring in adventurous players who put on a hell of a performance but tend to draw a small number of people--such avant-garde notables as Anthony Braxton, Rova Saxophone Quartet, L'Impossible Trio, Jeanne Lee and Paul Smoker.
Best Classical Music Festival
Colorado Music Festival
900 Baseline Rd., Boulder
The Colorado Music Festival exudes class, from the direction of conductor Giora Bernstein (who's appeared internationally but lives in Boulder) to the world-class musicians who congregate each summer just because they like to. Easier to reach than the Aspen, Vail or Breckenridge fests and willing to try anything (the CMF trots out everything from Mozart to Schoenberg in a single season), the summer series has won the ASCAP award for "Adventuresome Programming in Contemporary Music" for the last three years. And the festival goes out of its way to be accessible; this year, ticket prices were lowered, a child-care program ($2 an hour) and family package were begun, and a shuttle was made available to relieve parking miseries.
Best Music to Go
The Strolling Strings of Aurora high schools
Sometimes fingers aren't the only things that do the walking. The Strolling Strings, a group of incredibly enthusiastic--and talented--students from Aurora high schools, play a repertoire stretching from classical to Broadway show tunes. But it's how they play it that really matters: The dozens of musicians (the size of the group varies depending on the gig) actually stroll amidst the guests, bowing and plucking all the while. Until you've seen a cellist maneuver both a long gown and her instrument through a narrow aisle, you haven't appreciated true talent.
Best Dancing in the Street
LoDo Music Festival
The LoDo Music Festival took the concept popularized by Martha and the Vandellas and catapulted it to a whole new level. Last summer, blues, R&B and rock ruled the vicinity around Union Station--with major artists like Irma Thomas, Tower of Power, Leon Russell and Little Feat holding down the beat for two straight days. This year's roster should drive you dancin' fools way over the top--expect nonstop grooves from the likes of Booker T. and the MG's and Mr. James Brown.
Best Summer Family Musical Outing That Costs
Denver Botanic Gardens Concert Series
1005 York St.
The Botanic Gardens features two summer concert series: an adult version where children are welcome and one specifically designed for the kids. Beginning in June and running through August, the adult concerts generally feature world music and jazz, while the children's shows--from Peter and the Wolf to marching bands--give the kids instruments and ask them to join in. Come early with picnic supplies, let the kids run themselves ragged and enjoy the beautiful setting.
Best Summer Family Musical Outing That's Free
Museum of Outdoor Arts' Lunch Beats Concert Series
Fiddler's Green Circle at Greenwood Plaza
The Lunch Beats Concert Series returns this summer with free noon concerts every Wednesday through July 27. The shows feature an eclectic mix of music from country to jazz--and a nearby playground for the kids gives all the members of the family a break.
Best Place to Play the Tuba
The Annual Christmas Tuba Concert
Consider the lowly tuba, an oft-maligned instrument that must constantly pay the price of being deep-voiced and elephantine. That is, until Metro State music professor Bill Clark got into the act. Bent on proving that tubas have soul, Clark organizes an annual, free-to-the-public Christmas Tuba Concert that after twenty years is still blowing strong. As many as 200 tuba players, ranging in age from nine to well into their seventies, congregate in the morning for a rehearsal and perform the same afternoon. The repertoire, which includes delicate Christmas carols and other melodic works, is delivered with nary an oom-pah-pah--instead, you get a slice of beauty, albeit in a lower register.