Somethin's up a mile high in Elgin
The first time Elgin Baptist Church member Rich Zinzer heard Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, the group's upbeat, big band sound blew his socks off.
"I think they were playing It Is Well With My Soul' or something like that I was floored," says Zinzer. "It was such a fun way to present an old standard. I've heard that song played at funerals before. Played like that, it would have to be a New Orleans funeral."
Formed by a group of friends at Nashville's Belmont University in 1999, DenverMHO, as fans know them, is comprised of three trumpet players, three saxophone players, two trombone players and a rhythm section. The big band sound of the 30's and 40's had long intrigued bandleader Denver Bierman, a trumpet player since childhood. So he assembled a group of musician friends to reinvent the style for the modern age.
"I grew up listening to hip-hop, rock and pop to all those genres," says Bierman, who is also the group's lead vocalist and music arranger. "So I wanted to take the best of today and the best of yesterday and mix em up."
In the five years since their inception, the Nashville-based group has traveled the globe in concert, performing with notable artists like Bill Gaither, performed on numerous national and worldwide broadcasts including the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. They were the house band for the 2005 Gospel Music Awards.
"In an age when new bands come and go with the wind," Bierman says, "the only way you can explain that a Christian big band' is still going strong is that God must be up to something. Our job is to keep moving forward and make sure He gets all the glory."
After hearing DenverMHO on the radio, Zinzer eventually got to their booking agent to ask about a fundraising concert for the church.
He admits the odds of a band the calibre of DenverMHO agreeing to book a city of less than 100,000 is miniscule.
But Zinzer believes that, with God, everything is possible. So, months ago, when he saw DenverMHO had booked a West Coast tour that would take them from a gig in Vancouver, Wash. straight to another in Salt Lake City, he asked again if they could stop in Elgin while they were "in the neighborhood." The band agreed.
With their concert still a month away, tickets are almost sold out.
"All of the general seating is gone," said John Lamoreau, one of the concert's organizers. "All that's left are 60 reserved seats."
A final, funny twist: Locals familiar with SONSOFDAY will be pleased to know that the Portland-based rock band, who've performed in Union County many times, just happened to be booked to open for DenverMHO in Vancouver and Salt Lake. The booking agent asked Zinzer if the opening act could play here, too, adding, "You've probably never heard of them."
"When I asked him who the band was and he told me," Zinzer says, "I couldn't believe it."
God must be up to something in Elgin, too.