Engaging on all levels, song stylist Jim Curry lovingly shared his affinity with John Denver in Rocky Mountain High: A Tribute to John Denver, with his clarity of articulation combining with arrangements by Lee Holdridge for a seamless partnering with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
Denver's lyrics take us into his mind, heart and gut. He’s vulnerable and wise, playful and serious, admonishing and praising. The concert of some twenty pieces from “The John Denver Songbook” had something for everyone. Visuals projected on a screen above the orchestra was an added touch that both enlarged and constricted full enjoyment sometimes I wanted to keep my personal imagery conjured up by the lyrics and music from a seeming lifetime ago.
The engaged and appreciative audience was not shy about singing along and participating as hand percussionists in concert with Curry’s fine back up combo: Diane Ireland, flute; Gene Wagner, drums and percussion; Thomas Williams, bass and mandolin; and his wife Anne Curry, also a vocalist and guitarist. Their husband-wife duet, “Fly Away,” replicating the Olivia Newton-John/John Denver 1974 Christmas Special performance, was a highlight.
Curry closed with “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” a prescient/reflective piece accompanied by visuals of John Denver throughout his career. It was a satisfying closure for a concert that began with “Rocky Mountain High” and reminded us that, “There’s still so much to do.” At times the upfront amplification overpowered the Symphony players on March 9, though Richard Kaufman conducted with grace.March 9-10 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre; March 11 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts.