The Mealies kick off The Dercum Center’s inaugural season Sunday | SummitDaily.com
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The Mealies kick off The Dercum Center’s inaugural season Sunday

Erica Marciniec
Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily/Karina WetherbeeThe Mealies
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Combine one part Willy Porter and four parts Carpe Diem String Quartet and you get a unique fusion of flavors to nourish the soul in The Mealies, coming this Sunday night to Keystone’s Warren Station.

The performance kicks off the inaugural season of the new Dercum Center for the Arts and Humanities, a nonprofit headed by Carpe Diem violinist and founding member Charles Wetherbee, which takes on the management of the Snake River Chamber Music Festival, now in its 13th season, starting this year. The Mealies are also the opening act for a series of music camps starting Monday in Dillon.

The Mealies are group of diverse talents who came together a year-and-a-half ago, combining Carpe Diem – the locally renowned and anything-but-traditional string quartet (violins, viola and cello) that plays the Snake River Festival year after year – and guitarist/songwriter Willy Porter, who has worked with contemporary music icons including Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull, Paul Simon, Sting and Tori Amos.

Considered to be “the premier American indie string quartet,” Carpe Diem performs both classical string quartet repertoire and a broad range of other musical passions including gypsy, tango, folk, pop, rock and jazz-inspired music. They were dubbed “one of the most adventurous groups of its kind” by Edith Eisler of “Strings” magazine, in part owing to their “outside of the box” collaborations with Graeme Boone (banjo), Latin Grammy winner Raul Juarena (bandoneon) and Willy Porter.

Porter is “an indie favorite in his own right” who started touring more than 20 years ago. He is lauded for his “multi-faceted approach to the guitar coupled with his protean songwriting.”

Together, the group produces “a wide panorama of songs while bending the genres and blurring the lines between musical forms and preconceived ideas.” The Mealies released their album, “Live at the BoMA,” in 2010. On Sunday, they will present a concert best described as “folk rock,” Wetherbee said.

The new Dercum Center for the Arts and Humanities dedicates itself to bringing talent in the form of artists, teachers and lecturers to visit and enrich the Summit County community, said Wetherbee, who served as concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra from 1994-2011 while returning to the High Country each summer as musical director of the annual Snake River Chamber Music Festival.

Wetherbee’s Summit County roots run deeper than that, however, as he met his wife Karina, granddaughter of A-Basin and Keystone co-founders Max and Edna Dercum, years ago while playing with the National Repertory Orchestra. The Wetherbees partner with Lee Massaro, award-nominated director of the “The Crucible” at the Arvada Center, and Dercum grandson and well-known Denver actor Erik Tieze in managing the new center, which commemorates Max and Edna’s homesteader legacy – their adventurous spirit and willingness to pursue the new, bold endeavors that helped shape the history of Summit County and Colorado.

In other words, the grandkids are back – making music and otherwise supporting cultural endeavors in the High Country to enrich the land their grandparents helped to tame. On that note, you might say Sunday’s inaugural show is also a celebration of the new musical terrain into which the family’s “bold endeavors” have taken them two generations later.

Starting this year, the Dercum Center proudly takes over for Kikken Miller and Joan Houlton in managing the business side of the eight-concert Snake River Music Festival, which continues to be supported by the Snake River Foundation.

Wetherbee described the Snake River series as “chamber music” in a broad sense, meaning the performers are smaller groups in a more intimate setting than, say, an orchestra. While the series continues to feature classical programming, some nights are dedicated to broader genres. For example, “Faded Footprints and Dancing Shoes” on August 19 will feature South American folk and popular music including chacareras, cuecas and zambas that “resound in counterpoint to tango’s impassioned syncopations.” The Snake River Series officially starts July 31 with “Shickele Mix,” in which NRO conductor Carl Topilow will play clarinet as part of a chamber group.

The two music camps starting Monday, July 25 are Scale the Summit, a two-week-long chamber music camp, now in its third year, and the new Guitars on the Summit taught by Porter. Both camps are offered through the Summit Community Chamber Orchestra at Dillon Community Church, with members of the Carpe Diem String Quartet on the teaching staff as well.

“Our focus is on putting students into small groups such as quartets or trios,” Wetherbee said of Scale the Summit, which creates a learning environment where participants must alternate between following and directing – a required talent for chamber musicians, who play without a conductor.

Sunday’s concert should serve as an inspiration for campers, some of whom have begun their classical training already but may not yet have been exposed to the diversity of a uniquely Mealies-style “indie” chamber music folk rock show.


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