Celebrate Colorado with the music of John Denver, performed by the John Adams Band and brought to life with John Fielder’s nature photography, at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge on Friday, July 25.
Whether it’s the Rockies themselves, Denver’s iconic songs about them or the joy of helping others that elevates you, this tribute concert provides the opportunity to experience all three. The John Adams Band takes the stage for the sixth year to spread Denver’s good cheer, this time to benefit the local nonprofit Domus Pacis Family Respite, which uses donated homes, volunteers and the generosity of local businesses to provide a week of respite for cancer patients and their families.
“The money all goes to providing respites for our families,” said Vince White-Petteruti, who co-founded Domus Pacis with his wife, Marylouise. “Cleaning is one, staff time is another, miscellaneous administrative stuff, coordinating volunteers. All that money goes to supporting the organization that will support the families coming up. We provide a full week of respite that includes the home, some meals — volunteers produce meals for us — and some pro bono activities.”
To enhance the show, more than 200 of Fielder’s Colorado photographs will complement four of Denver’s songs on the Riverwalk’s new 25-foot, state-of-the-art projection screen. From wilderness and ranches to flowers and waterfalls, Fielder’s photos will be the perfect backdrop to Denver’s words and music.
“John Fielder has been a great supporter of ours,” Vince White-Petteruti said. “I love his Colorado landscapes; he just captures the mountains. I’m in love with the mountains. I came out here 35 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, and had never seen mountains before, and it just blew me away. And John’s work captures that. … He’s got an amazing eye, he gives quite a bit back to the community, and the work that he does amazes me, also.”
Living the legacy
Adams, who is from Holland, started playing Denver’s songs in 1972 when “Take Me Home, Country Roads” became a hit in Europe. He moved to the U.S. 12 years ago after the artist’s death, committed to keeping the music alive.
“What we do is a very authentic, traditional John Denver concert,” Adams said. “We don’t change John Denver’s music; we keep it in the authentic way that he wrote it and performed it.”
The lineup includes classics such as “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” “Calypso” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” as well as lesser-known works. Before his death, Denver was, in fact, working on a project with Adams, as the two were well acquainted, having met on 14 different occasions. They once performed “Whispering Jess” on a television program together.
“He loved to sing in different languages: Russian, Chinese,” Adams said. “Because I’m from Holland, he wanted to sing together in Dutch and English. I recorded my part. He never had a chance to record his part.”
Adams will share stories about Denver between songs.
“He was such a down-to-earth person,” Adams said.
Vince White-Petteruti said he has all of Denver’s albums and would be at the concert, singing along to every tune.
“I like his music because it fits in amazingly with Colorado,” he said. “It really tells the story of Colorado and that story is part of the peacefulness that families get when they come here for respite. ‘Rocky Mountain High,’ the idea that you see the mountains and the wilderness — it brings peace and calm to you that families need.”
Domus Pacis aims to raise awareness and solicit more homes — especially those that are unoccupied for portions of every year — to make it possible to serve more families. The organization started with eight homes in 2008 and now has 95 potentially available in Summit, meaning homeowners will provide the homes if they are vacant when needed, said Marylouise White-Petteruti. The goal is to get to 100 homes this year and serve more than 100 families.
Vince White-Petteruti said the concert would benefit the organization in three ways.
“One, financially,” he said. “Two, because a large number of the folks who buy tickets are visitors who have second homes. We can typically get additional second homes to provide the respites for our families, and the third thing is just exposure both to visitors and locals for Domus Pacis. It’s a great format for us to get the word out.”
“People open up their homes for people to have a last chance to spend together in the mountains,” Adams said. “Who would say no to a cause like that?”
Adams has served as a UNICEF teacher and ambassador for the Ronald McDonald House and raised funds for the Santa Rosa Plateau Foundation in Southern California. He describes Denver as his role model.
“John didn’t only inspire me with his music but also for all the good things that he did for the planet,” he said, citing Denver’s work to end hunger, replant trees and protect places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Tickets to the concert are $25 or $50 for VIP seating and after-party at Jade Garden, with proceeds benefiting Domus Pacis. Fielder’s books will also be on sale at the event.
Arts and entertainment editor Krista Driscoll contributed to this article.