Community variety show at St. Paul’s
By Patty Unruh
Gilpin County’s third “almost annual” variety show was held April 19 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The event was not held last year but was presented each of the two previous years. An eager crowd of about 120 people filled the church to see and hear the impressive talent that Gilpin County has to offer.
The event was emceed by Leslie Duffy, who welcomed the crowd. “I don’t have any talent,” she said, “but look around. This is Gilpin County.” She said she was proud to be a Gilpinite. “We may argue,” she said, “but in spite of our different churches, political beliefs, and organizations, we come together.” She said that in times of trouble, the folks of Gilpin never let anybody down.
Duffy, who was actually a skilled master of ceremonies, added, “We are Gilpin County, and we all belong here. We’re here tonight to enjoy our amazing talent.” She then introduced Rev. Sarah Freeman, the vicar of St. Paul’s. Rev. Freeman thanked everyone for coming to the talent show and began with a moment of silence to pray for the community and for the country, for those who were hurting. Following the prayer, the group was ready to have fun.
The parade of talent began with young Aubrey Allen, who sang and signed “God Bless America.” Decked out in a shiny blue gown, Aubrey was accompanied by her mother on the violin.
Sean McGaughey, the next performer, gave his rendition of “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. McGaughey shared that he had sung the song for his wife as she walked down the aisle on their wedding day in November 2011–11/11/11, he told the crowd. The audience appreciated his pleasant vibrato and acoustic folk guitar.
Neal Standard, a member of Gilpin History (formerly Gilpin Historical Society), presented a vignette of Hal Sayre, one of Gilpin’s colorful characters who struck it rich with gold. The assembled group learned that Sayre started the first abstract title company in Central City. He also platted the cities of Central City and Black Hawk and drew up the boundary lines for Boulder and Gilpin counties. Because his wife didn’t like living here, they moved to Denver, then traveled in Europe. Upon their return, he built a mansion in 1890 modeled after a Spanish castle, which is now the Governor’s mansion. A black part of Sayre’s history was the massacre at Sand Creek, where he led one hundred soldiers from Central City in killing Indians, including squaws and children. Sayre passed away at the age of 92.
It was time for some comedy relief with J.D. Paschke’s “Gilpin County Medley.” Paschke, who wrote all the humorous verses, accompanied himself on electric guitar. The verses covered every quirky facet of Gilpin life, from jury duty, snow plowing, pine beetles, and fire mitigation to our “two-day summer,” frozen dead guy, and high altitude. Everyone joined in the chorus, “God bless Gilpin County, it’s my home sweet home.”
Sonny and Cher made an appearance with “I Got You, Babe.” Rev. Sarah and Lyndle Freeman portrayed the famous husband and wife duo from the sixties, complete with bell bottoms and a long black wig. The song, while it definitely drew some laughter, was also touching in its loving delivery by the Freemans.
The next talented singer was Sarah Calhoun, who sang “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion and “Wish You Were Somehow Here” from Phantom of the Opera. Calhoun delivered a professional performance in a beautiful, passionate soprano and received a standing ovation.
Emcee Duffy then introduced a budding young talent, Chris Bleske of the band “Raven.” Bleske performed two numbers, “The Wind Cries Mary” by Jimi Hendrix and “Pockets” by Eric Bibb. His licks on the electric guitar drew appreciative applause.
A country dance medley followed, arranged and called by Amanda Skeen. The dance segment commenced with Skeen and Mike Patterson performing the country two-step, “Cowboys and Angels” by Justin Lynch. “Mike was a stage hand,” Duffy noted as she introduced the dancers, “but now he has graduated to performer.”
“Bow to your partner,” Skeen called. “Bow to your corner, and do-si-do.” Laura and Gordon Pierce, Constance and Jim Reed, Natasha and John Lamas, and Heide LaCosse and Mike Patterson square danced to the “Wabash Cannonball,” followed by the Texas line dance, “I Run to You” by Lady Antebellum. The audience put their hands together to keep time on those lively numbers. “Cowboys really do dance,” Duffy observed, drawing laughter from the interactive crowd.
In between acts, Faith Anne Paschke provided lighter moments with her stand-up comedy. Some of her jokes were some original, and some were pure corn. She sometimes fluffed her lines or had issues with the microphone sliding down, but that only added to the humor. As the evening went on, as soon as Faith appeared in her blingy purple top, guests started chuckling in anticipation. Faith drew the biggest laugh with this one: “I just graduated from home school. That is, well…my dad just looked at me and said, ‘That’s all I know.’”
During intermission, folks filed past a table laden with a selection of scrumptious desserts and fruit. Hungry guests had their choice of grasshopper mint, mochaccino, almond poppy seed, s’mores, banana split, or peanut butter cupcakes prepared by Pam Standard and Laura Pierce, with the assistance of Judy Coleman and Joyce Herod.
After the cakes and fruit were consumed, it was time for the raffle. Several local businesses contributed gift certificates and other coveted items. Mountain Mocha, “A Moment for Me” in Central City, the Lodge and Gilpin Hotel Casinos, B&F Grocery in Nederland, Millie’s Restaurant at the Easy Street Casino, “Shabby Chic” Salon and Spa in Golden, Roy’s Last Shot, Mountain Tool and Feed, and Ann Healey were the contributors for the raffle. In addition to gift certificates, raffled items included a large pizza, a bag of coffee, a complimentary manicure, therapeutic massage, a night’s hotel stay, one-hour sessions of spiritual direction from Rev. Freeman, and several hand-made wooden items created especially for the talent show raffle.
The second half of the show began with an Italian aria, “Comme Raggio di Sol” (As on the Swelling Wave), performed by Nahanni Freeman, who charmed the audience with her lovely, expressive soprano. Fittingly attired in an emerald green blouse, Freeman also sang the old Irish aire, “Danny Boy.”
Jim Stewart, who has been a part of the show every year, entertained on the accordion with a lively polka medley reminiscent of Myron Floren (for those of us who grew up listening to Lawrence Welk). As his fingers flew faster and faster over the keyboard, the audience whooped and clapped along. When Stewart launched into “Roll Out the Barrel,” the crowd sang along spontaneously.
Rev. Freeman and Jeanne Sonnleitner, the former band director at Gilpin County School, presented the song “Friendship.” Clad in overalls and English flat caps, the two crooned, “When other friendships have been forgit, ours will still be it. Friendship, friendship, just the perfect friendship!”
Shari Weissman pleased the crowd with “Long Ride Home” and “Won’t Take Me Back.” She was joined by Greg Cooperman, who drove up from Albuquerque that day. Weissman’s resonant and soulful vocals and acoustic guitar blended well with Cooperman’s accordion and harmonica. Obviously, Weissman missed Gilpin County. “I lived here till last November,” she said ruefully, “and I gotta come back!” Cooperman really rocked the house with his masterful harmonica riffs on “It’s Over but I Can’t Let Go.” The audience agreed with that sentiment; they didn’t want to let go of that song, whistling and clapping in appreciation.
The grand finale was The Church Guys, back by popular demand. Woody Snyder, Lyndle Freeman, Joe Duffy, Mike Patterson, Gordon Pierce, John Lamas, and Rev. Sarah Freeman wowed the crowd with “Olympic Synchronized Swimming.” Of course, it took a little set-up time to create a pool, but after the stage hands had strung a blue tarp across the stage, the Church Guys were ready to strut their stuff. Striding down the center aisle in their bathrobes, swim caps, and goggles, they stripped down to their “scanty” swimwear—sleeveless t-shirts and knee-length flowered trunks. The Guys flawlessly performed their routine amid the laughter, whistles, and catcalls of the audience, finishing to riotous applause.
Several of the performers had comments to share about their talents and the acts they chose for the show. Singer Sarah Calhoun is self-taught and works at the Bergen Park Animal Clinic. She said, “I was invited to perform after, strangely enough, Leslie and Joe Duffy heard me sing for a funeral.” Calhoun is working on a music degree.
Amanda Skeen advised that the square dancing group was a combination of people she knew and whom Leslie Duffy knew who wanted to do something. Skeen took three dances and chose the cowboy hustle as a line dance. She watched YouTube videos to get ideas for choreographing the square dance. The group practiced three times prior to their performance. Skeen said, “I grew up dancing in the home, country western dancing. My parents danced.”
J.D. Paschke performed his “Gilpin County Medley” at the previous talent shows and has performed the number at the Gilpin County Fair in 2011, winning second place. A true multi-tasker, Paschke ran also sound for the evening’s program.
All of the evening’s performers were volunteers. The stage hands were Ron Montoya and Heide LaCosse, the sign girl was Sophia Lamas, sound man was J.D. Paschke, and lighting operators were Jeanne Sonnleitner and Roy Blake. Shari Weissman at Endpoint Direct designed and printed the show material. Anne and J.D. Paschke contributed their drapery for the stage. St. Paul’s rented the stage and lighting from a Denver company. The sound system was a combination of equipment from St. Paul’s and St. James United Methodist Church.