Mining tragedy in Gilpin County

p2p-chorale_groupPeak to Peak Chorale tells the Stroehle Brothers historical tale

By David Josselyn

The Peak to Peak Chorale is at it once again entertaining the region with their musical drama “Deep Waters.”  The play was penned by none other than County Manager Roger Baker and features Clarence and Bill Stroehle’s last moments when they were trapped in the collapse of the Manchester Mine.

A little history

The Stroehle name may be familiar to locals. The family home still stands on Chase Street in Black Hawk and there is a High Tea event held twice annually. The family’s turn of the century grand piano holds testimony to the musical talent in their genes. The drama of the family history combined with their penchant for music lends itself naturally to the talents of the Peak to Peak Chorale.

The Chorale has taken some liberties with Baker’s original story, adding background (written by Marith Reheis with research help from both Marith and Cora Jean Leenheer) from the family’s origins on the border of Austria and Germany and their journey to Central City.

The Music

Chorale Directors and sisters Ann and Jane Wyss dipped into their wealth of chorale knowledge to find songs that fit mostly seamlessly into the story that convey the emotions, feelings, and history of the story. Ann and Jane have the choir yodeling through Mi Vater Isch a Chaaser Gsii, and trumpeting their patriotism in Battle Cry of Freedom and Seventy-Six Trombones. Jerry Leenheer’s and Jason Speck’s deep bass rumble can almost be felt in the blue-collar song Sixteen Tons. As the story turns to brothers Clarence and Bill, the chorale uses a modern tune by Swedish artist Avicii and featured in a Coke commercial, Hey Brother, to focus the drama to just the two men. As the brothers reminisce about Sunday afternoon sing-a-longs, the spiritual Oh What a Beautiful City accompanies their memories. Talk of the coming war (World War II) brings about Colonel Bogey’s Grand Old Flag. Clarence realizes Bill is not going to make it and distracts him from the inevitable by talking about good times they shared and the potential genius of Walt Disney, so naturally, the chorale picks up with When You Wish upon a Star. The final three songs sum up the end of the tale quite nicely with Hold Me Rock Me, Bound for the Promised Land, and Ashokan Farewell. The Chorale is accompanied by the uber talented Andre Mallinger on keyboard.

The Cast

Several familiar faces and some new ones round out the cast such as Chuck Roberts and Mike Keeler playing Bill and Clarence Stroehle; Nicki Friedeck with newcomer David Wacker playing the parents of Bill and Clarence, Matilda and John Stroehle. Woody Snyder is back as the grandfather George Stroehle with Marith Reheis playing his wife, Christine; and Robbie Zmuda delights us as an unnamed family cousin. This year features Cricket Hirsch as the resident Tommyknocker and narrator for the story. Joyce Herod and Judy Coleman have fun playing teenagers in the Gilpin High School band and Joyce also plays her trombone along with Jerry Leenheer to accompany Seventy-Six Trombones. Other chorale members take on roles, too. Jason Speck plays a civil war veteran and Carol Mirarck stands in as his unnamed wife. Hat-wearing Ana Buckman-Hart does not disappoint, and David Josselyn takes up a role difficult for him to get into as a Weekly Register-Call reporter.

In Summary

This year, the Chorale will hold three performances; one at the Coal Creek Community Improvement Association building, another at the Black Forest Restaurant in Nederland, and a final performance at the Elks Club in Central City. The first and final performances are being catered by JKQ BBQ with the tasty talent of Joe and Kara Tinucci. As of this publication, the last performance date is May 7 and it’s not too late to pick up some tickets.

Sunday, May 1st’s performance was well received. The choir sounded great and you could tell the actors were having fun. There were some pregnant pauses in the dialogue that I chalk up to first night nerves, but overall it was a fine performance. As always, the choir reminds people that they welcome new singers. Although taking a break for the summer, the chorale will pick up again in September, every Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the Gilpin Library.

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