Aspen Choral Society’s 43rd annual season of Messiah is being created as a virtual, “360” event. The innovative performance using Roaring Fork Valley scenes will be released in late December.  Thursday, November 19th is ACS’s virtual, annual fundraising concert, featuring local favorite, Mack Bailey.

Basalt, CO… The 43rd consecutive performance of the Messiah will take place this year as an innovative, “360” virtual choir event. Despite the COVID-19 virus, which has devastated choir performances all over the nation, the Roaring Fork Valley performance of the Messiah is not going away.  The Aspen Choral Society has been performing the holiday favorite in Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs since 1977, and this year will be no exception.

ACS Music Director Paul Dankers is not only a talented musician and choral director, but also excels in the technical skills required to craft this type of virtual choir experience. “We knew we had to do something unique to maintain our long tradition of Messiah performances while also doing our part to keep our singers and community safe,” says Dankers. “Messiah is not only a local holiday favorite, but an essential experience for our outstanding vocal and instrumental musicians. We couldn’t miss it because of COVID,” he continues.

In addition to the ongoing virtual planning and production of each section of the Messiah, the Aspen Choral Society is also planning a virtual fundraiser this week.  Its fourth annual event will be this Thursday, November 19, from 7:00-8:15pm. The virtual event, hosted by ASC Board President Tamela Kenning, will be simultaneously broadcast on the ACS YouTube Channel and ACS Facebook page.  It will feature a live, online performance by local favorite, singer-songwriter Mack Bailey, as well as a virtual silent auction. A suggested donation of $5 per viewer is appreciated. Additional information on how to view both the Mack Bailey performance and Messiah 360 will be available soon at www.aspenchoralsociety.org.

Following his career as a professional touring musician, Bailey earned his master’s degree in music therapy. Today, he focuses his work and talents to improve the lives of people suffering from post-traumatic stress through the power of making music. Bailey says he’s delighted that he was asked to perform for the fundraiser. “My music therapy and songwriting work with people enduring trauma has made me appreciate how much we have all sacrificed during this extraordinary year of social isolation and uncertainty. I hope my music not only helps ACS with its fundraising efforts but also provides a welcome dose of musical therapy to anyone who needs it right now.”

Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and the high risk of transmission in choirs, this year’s Messiah will offer an innovative twist on the beloved performance, inspired by the emergence of virtual choirs on YouTube and other online outlets. Unlike other static or electronically-generated backgrounds seen in many virtual choirs, Aspen Choral Society is taking advantage of the scenic Roaring Fork Valley to provide the backgrounds and visual effects that will add dimension to the recorded voices of the choir members. In addition, Dankers is using technology that will allow the viewer to experience the choir performance in 360o. Production is already underway and the program will be released on the Aspen Choral Society’s YouTube channel in late December.

“Historically, our in-person rehearsals have always been very efficient – we gather, warm up, quiet our minds, and sing. This type of professionalism, which has always been displayed by the choir, has aided us in our transition from a social choir to a virtual one,” continued Dankers. He hopes that ACS’s movement to a virtual platform this season allows its music to reach beyond the Roaring Fork Valley to a broader, more diverse audience than in the past. The new experience of creating Messiah 360 this year has another advantage, says Dankers.  “I’ve been so fortunate to get to know so many of our members on a more individual basis, working one-on-one rather than in a large group.”

Tamela Kenning echoed Dankers’ excitement for the virtual choir. “Our ACS musicians have embraced this opportunity to sing together even though we can’t meet in person. It is our shared love of tradition and musicianship, and a commitment to each other that is driving everyone’s willingness and courage to try something new.  It’s thrilling to be part of it,” says Kenning.

Mack Bailey has been a prominent figure in the Roaring Fork Valley music scene for over 30 years. In addition to performing at the fundraising concert on November 19th, Mack Bailey has been a frequent member of the ACS choirs, singing in both Messiah and other performances as both a chorister and soloist. He is a renowned songwriter and folk singer, live performer and recording artist, and music therapist. Bailey has recorded and performed as a solo artist, with his wife Rachel Levy, and as a member of The Limeliters and The Hard Travelers. He is also well known for his role in the official John Denver Celebratory Concerts.