Serene Karplus, Nederland. A wistful sigh twinged briefly through the excitement as I hiked up the long ramp alongside the orange cream striped rock. I felt a little sad for the man who should have been here and would miss this big night.
No sooner had I donned my full rain suit when the all-afternoon downpour stopped. Contrary to forecasts, the sunset glowed red against the brilliant rocks and cast its spell on a perfect summer evening outdoors.
Thrilled to be in this gorgeous setting with three girlfriends, I had come to celebrate the joy of success with my favorite musical group of the past decade. Fifteen years ago, a half dozen local guys had assembled through voice auditions held by a couple of founders. As a side hobby to their day jobs, the guys met regularly and worked on vocal arrangements of popular songs. Over time, they wrote their own arrangements and their own songs.
What emerged was magic. With no instruments, the vocal band re-created all the harmonies of the original music. Each man sings the lead on some tunes and background on others. The beyond-amazing percussionist performs a huge variety of drums, cymbals, and more with just the sounds of his mouth and throat. In a piece demanded at every concert, he sings a solo song while accompanying himself with vocal drumming in a musical sleight-of-voice that brings the audience to their feet every time.
But this band is about more than tight vocal harmonies and extreme musical talent. They don’t live in their heads. They live humbly in their hearts. Joking with one another, they share their brotherly affection with the audience. After performing in other countries, they delight in arriving home to a warm welcome from their Boulder County fans, who have memorized their CDs and show up for all their concerts. Most return home to wives, some to kids.
A couple of years ago, the founding singer, Ben, left the band. The group’s schedule had become busy enough to require a full-time commitment. He decided instead to continue his career as a scientist, to slog away at tasks like curing cancer. Harmonies were rewritten and relearned so five voices could sound almost as full as six. He was the man I was feeling sad about missing as I approached the concert. We fans had always enjoyed him performing what to us was “his” song, disappointed when the band recorded it without him, another guy on the lead voice.
Eleven years ago, they played a corporate gig in the musical history museum housed at the top of the amphitheater in Morrison. After their performance, they sneaked out to the empty stage of the famous hall and stood in awe of the massive rocks, thousands of empty bleacher seats before them. They felt the sheer joy of standing on the spot where every great, famous popular musician, from Benny Goodman to The Beatles, has stood. They wondered what that would feel like, how it would sound. No one was there.
No one was looking. So they played make-believe and sang to that empty space.
They made a wish, like all young musicians (in their twenties at that time), that someday they would get to play there for real. Like a high school sports star envisioning winning the Olympics, it was a far-fetched fantasy. But everyone has to have a dream.
On August 6, 2017, their hearts burst open as they performed to a full house at the fabulous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The crowd of over 7,000 of all ages had come to share that thrill. We could hear FACE Vocal Band sing all over the Front Range all year long, but this was their biggest dream come true and we had to witness it. Singing all of our classic favorites and several inspiring youth to believe in themselves, we rode a thrill wave that matched the joy tsunami of the band.
At this concert alone, FACE raised over $30,000 to fund music education in Front Range schools. Inviting three local bands to open for them, they just wanted to share the excitement of playing at this National Historic Landmark. They sang the song that seeded the dream on that stage eleven years ago. They welcomed 200 student and adult singers on stage with them for a couple of songs for a taste of the fun, a with all those folks behind them, they brought Ben on stage to sing his signature song.
Thanks, guys, for a thrilling evening sharing your hearts, humor, talents, and magic with us. And for proving to all of us that with hard work and commitment, even super big dreams really can come true.
All adults are welcome at all Mountain MidLife and Nederland Area Seniors events, attended mostly by folks over age 50. Everyone is invited to all meals at the Nederland Community Center. Please call two days ahead for lunch reservations (a week ahead for dinners and breakfasts if possible) to 303-258-0799. Missed the deadline? Call anyway. Costs listed show first the over-age-60 requested anonymous contribution, then the under-age-60. Please note that all over age 60 are welcome regardless of ability to contribute financially.