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30 years of making music

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO
Kelley Cox Post Independent
ALL |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Ray Adams wasn’t even pretending to be fully awake. It was Tuesday afternoon, and he’d already spoken to another reporter by the time he made his way to this paper. Once here, the conductor and composer put his head down on a table in exaggerated emphasis. He was facing a three-hour rehearsal.

As soon as he started talking about his upcoming show, however, he perked up. He was instantly into it.

“This thing rocks,” said Adams, 55. “It really does.”



With intense eye contact, constantly moving hands, he was detailing the Aspen Choral Society’s Spring Concert, opening tonight in Carbondale. Now in its 30th year, the performance will be a be a bit of a reunion, he said, with plenty of “old-timers” like himself, either visiting or participating. In a nod to nostalgia, the concert will be held in the Barn (just as it had been in the 1970s) at Colorado Rocky Mountain School.

To Adams, “It’s just like coming home.”



Presented in three parts, the show will first premier six original, “beautiful, tear-jerking” songs, he said. All scored by him (one with lyrics he penned) and sung by Judeth Shay, the pieces include poetry he hand-picked. They’re tied to poignant, sometimes painful events that have touched him and friends.

“Drop dead gorgeous,” is how he described the show’s second part. The mostly classical choral set will be performed by his combined Glenwood and Aspen choirs. “Appalachian Spring,” a 13-instrument orchestral piece and a “hell of a lot of work” (Adams’ words, of course) will finish off the night.

Going intently into detail about each aspect of the show, he spoke with an unwavering vitality. This performance, he explained, is a combination of more than 70 singers and a dozen musicians. Before their performance the group will only have a few days to practice as a whole, he went on. He even had yet to hear his original pieces performed live.

And he just seemed jazzed by the daunting quality of it all.

“It means everything to me,” he said, of the choir. He lingered on each word. “It absolutely means everything.”

Soon after, Adams was in a Glenwood church and smack in the middle of rehearsal. His hands whipped around quickly and intentionally as he directed about 30 or so singers. At times, he’d pause and joke, letting out some spontaneous comment, and the crowd would laugh. Mostly, though, he was focused, leaning in with his torso, jabbing the air with his fingers and refining the harmony around him.

Pulled to the sidelines, some chorus members gave their thoughts on all this.

“It’s an uplifting experience,” said Glenwood soprano Patti Christensen, 62.

“I think we do some amazingly good music for a community chorus,” added David Sante, 46, a bass from Rifle. “Ray brings it all about.”

Silt soprano Heidi Bagley, 12, said she liked how Adams jokes around, but also felt the chorus was making a difference.

“Mostly, I’m happy to please my God,” she said. “But other than that, to help my community, so the community can listen to music.”

Like Adams, Carbondale pianist Terry Lee, 53, described playing at CRMS as a “homecoming.” She was a director of development there for nine years.

She spoke of the “pleasure” it was to work with Adams, of her excitement and nerves over tackling new pieces. She loves choral music, she said, but when asked why, she paused and fumbled for a moment.

“Words can’t explain it…” she finally said. “It’s almost a spiritual experience.”

Soon after, the music started again. The voices grew loud and then soft and back. Moving from serene to striking, it was the kind of sound that urges you to close your eyes. It was beautiful, no doubt, and it brought to mind something Adams mentioned earlier.

“This is all I know,” he had said, of his work. “This is really all I know. I will do it until I die.”

Dramatic? Oh yeah. But it made sense, after a listen.

Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111

ssieg@postindependent.com


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