Lee Holdridge, left, will lead the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and local guests in a celebration of John Denver (right) March 29 and 30 in Kelowna and March 31 in Vernon. (Photo submitted)

John Denver takes Kelowna, Vernon country roads

Rocky Mountain High — An Evening of John Denver ignites the Okanagan March 29-31

Rick Worrall’s goal was simple: to share his love of John Denver’s music.

It snowballed from there, and Worrall, now backed by local talent and the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, was able to bring in Denver’s acclaimed composer, conductor and arranger Lee Holdridge to Kelowna and Vernon stages for Rocky Mountain High — An Evening of John Denver March 29-31.

“I’ve always been a John Denver fan and I knew his music lent itself really well to the symphony,” Worrall said.

Inspired by a 2016 Elton John tribute put together by the band Jeans ‘n Classics and the OSO, where Worrall said he came in last minute to sing, he approached the symphony with his idea to celebrate Denver. And it all evolved from there.

Related: Jeans ‘n Classics, OSO give Elton John the symphonic treatment

“I reached out to Lee Holdridge to see if I could rent the symphony charts,” Worrall said.

Holdridge returned Worrall’s call within a few hours with the sad news that there were no longer any charts. However, after Worrall proposed that he come and conduct the symphony himself, Holdridge was on board and Worrall was thrilled.

“Lee, he’s one of the Hollywood legends that’s still going,” Worrall said. “Lee is one of the top Hollywood composers and arrangers. He’s done movies and TV – he has seven Emmys for his TV work, and two Grammy Awards – and he’s worked with everybody. Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, he still works with Neil Diamond, and he’s been working lately with Placido Domingo.”

Haiti-born and Costa Rica-raised, Holdridge relocated to the United States at the age of 15 before arranging for some of the country’s biggest acts.

“Both Steve (Worrall’s brother) and I have had the opportunity to work with some pretty big people. We’ve had great opportunities, but I always seek out the opportunity to work with more people. Lee is as close as you can get to working with John Denver,” Worrall said.

Holdridge will hold the helm of the concert, which features Okanagan vocalists Steve Worrall, Mia Harris, Justin Moore and Delphine Litke backed by the band that includes Gary Smith, Scott Grant, Brian McMahon, Chris Stevens, Susan Aylard and guest pianists Neville Bowman and Melina Schein.

“The band comprises some of the best players in the Okanagan,” Worrall said.

However, Worrall said, it’s important to note that the show is less of a tribute and more of a celebration of the beloved American singer/songwriter.

“I want the audience to come and enjoy the songs. I think people will be pleasantly surprised,” Worrall said. “We’re hoping that we’re going to create a very similar experience as seeing John Denver without him being there.”

Rocky Mountain High — An Evening of John Denver ignites the Kelowna Community Theatre March 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. and the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre March 31 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $59 adult, $54 senior and $27 youth and are available through the Ticket Seller in Vernon, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.com, and Kelowna Tickets, 250-862-2867, www.kelownatickets.com. A portion of the proceeds will support the Boys and Girls Club of the Okanagan.


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