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John Denver Tribute Band Touring the Region

It wasn’t the high of the Colorado Rocky Mountains that inspired Chris Collins to get serious about music, but it was similar peaks in Canada.

A trip to the Canadian mountain range eventually led to the formation of Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon, a John Denver Tribute Band, which is slated to perform at the Carlisle Theater on Nov. 12, at 8 p.m., as part of a tribute tour to commemorate the singer-songwriter who died in a plane crash in 1997.

“My wife and I went to the Canadian Rocky Mountains on our tenth anniversary, and I was so inspired I said, ‘I have to get a guitar,’ so we stopped, and I bought a Yamaha,” Collins reminisced.

The result of Collins foray into the world of music was Alberta Skies, his first album which came out in 2001.

As he began to perform in ever-widening music venues, his clear, pure voice, reminiscent of John Denver, initiated invitations to play popular Denver songs. It didn’t hurt that his blonde-haired, laid-back appearance, small wire-rimmed glass, and understated humor resemble Denver, famous for such songs as Rocky Mountain High, Take Me Home, Country Roads, Annie’s Song, and Sunshine, among many others.

Collins says his similarities to John Denver are “pretty much coincidence.” He has worn his hair the same way since he was 19, and the glasses are an affectation he borrowed from a classmate who wore similar frames.

“I thought he was so cool,” he said.

Collins wants his band to bring Denver’s music to life, to let today’s younger listeners feel the music, and allow older listeners to relive what it felt like when they saw or heard the famous singer in the 1970s.

“I’m not trying to morph into John Denver, but the best way to sing Denver is to let your own voice out. Let the song do all the work. That would be the biggest insult if someone said I was an impersonator,” Collins said.

Collins also doesn’t want to let people forget Denver’s humanitarianism and passion about the environment

“I hope our band is not just a good representative of his music but that we are also a good representative of his legacy and the good he promoted. It is a privilege and honor to carry that on,” said Collins.

To that end, at a recent concert in Aspen, marking the anniversary of Denver’s passing, Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon raised $9,000 for the Heifer Foundation, an organization working to end world hunger, and $1,000 for a Texas wildlife refuge.

In 1977, Denver co-founded The Hunger Project and was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the President’s Commission of World Hunger. He was also an activist who was vocal in his concerns for the homeless, the hungry, the poor, the environment, and the African AIDs crisis.

“That was the thing that most excited me. I loved that he used his celebrity and his fame to be a force of good in the world, manifested through his music, and relationships with stars and politicians,” he said.

Collins says his concert demographics are primarily in the 40- to 80-year-old age group and slightly favor women. While he and the Boulder Canyon Band focus on Denver’s well-known hits, he also loves to do some of the lesser-known songs from the late 1970s that largely fell unheard.

Collins also likes to converse with the audience during performances, using a brand of understated, low-key humor and down-home friendliness.

“Communication is such a big part of music,” he said. “John (Denver) was such a great communicator, and my own style began to reflect that. I love the way he talked.”

Boulder Canyon is comprised of Collins as lead vocalist, also playing guitar and banjo; Alexander Mitchell, fiddle, mandolin, vocal; Nigel Newton, piano, keyboards; Paul Swanton, lead guitar, vocal; Joel Tolley, bass guitar; and Kevin Delmolino, bass guitar, vocal; in addition to visits from guest artists.

“It is such a great band,” Collins said. “They really bring the music to life. I can let them off their leash and let them go in the direction they feel the music. The audience gets that.”




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