Lee Holdridge will conduct the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra as part of Rocky Mountain High, coming to Kelowna and Vernon.

Rocky Mountain High concert takes John Denver’s music to new heights

Celebration of John Denver and his music comes to Kelowna and Vernon

Rick Worrall wants you to know he loves tribute acts. But Rocky Mountain High – An Evening of John Denver is not a tribute act.

“This is a celebration of John Denver and his music,” Worrall said. “I want to keep it in his style. But no one’s going to be dressing up like him or trying to impersonate him, because in my view there was only one John Denver.”

The show runs March 29 to 31, with two performances at the Kelowna Community Theatre and one performance at the Vernon Community Arts Centre. A portion of ticket sales and sponsorship will support the Boys and Girls Club of the Okanagan.

The artist who recorded hits like Take Me Home Country Roads, Annie’s Song, Sunshine On My Shoulder and the everlasting Rocky Mountain High died in 1997. But his collaborator and the co-architect of his distinctive sound, Lee Holdridge, will be on stage conducting the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra as they play his original arrangements from the famous Denver recordings.

“I’m so excited about having Lee because I am a John Denver fan,” Worrall said. “I saw John Denver in 1974 at CNE in Toronto and Lee was conducting the orchestra.”

One of Hollywood’s best

“Lee is one of the top Hollywood composers and arrangers,” Worrall said. “He’s done movies and TV – he has seven Emmys for his TV work, and two Grammy Awards – and he’s worked with everybody. Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, he still works with Neil Diamond, and he’s been working lately with Placido Domingo.”

Worrall’s production company has assembled the concert, and has plans to take it across Canada. The Kelowna and Vernon concerts will be the world premiere performances. Worrall will also have a starring role on stage.

With Holdridge as music director, the concert will present the music of John Denver in its familiar settings and in some new interpretations. Vocalists Steve Worrall, Mia Harris, Justin Moore and Delphine Litke – all of whom are favourites in the Valley’s professional music scene – will be backed by an all-star band that includes Gary Smyth, Scott Grant, Brian McMahon, Chris Stevens, Susan Aylard and guest pianists Neville Bowman and Melina Schein.

Worrall loves the production aspect of assembling a concert. “Production is the art of creating an audience experience,” he says. And everything in Rocky Mountain High, from the simplest presentation to the full sound of the symphony, is built around two things: John Denver’s music and the audience experience.

“The songs are everything, they stand alone,” he said. “But for the audience, the production puts the icing on the cake.”

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