The night of June 15, 2017 brought joy to my heart and soul. Dear friend and neighbor Nan
joined me for the 10th ABBA tribute concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater located just west of Denver, Colorado in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. As fans of ABBA, we thoroughly enjoyed the music, the dancing (the two of us plus almost everyone at the concert!), and the outdoor venue. Nan added a picnic dinner to the festivities. Then we experienced the beautiful dusk turning to a starry night sky. The evening of delight came to us compliments of KOSI radio station.
This concert reminded me of the other live performances in my adult life, including the first ABBA tribute concert at Red Rocks in 2007. I treated my aunt and me to that musical adventure in honor of her 83rd birthday. My first concert took place in college in the early 1980s. Shari, my best friend from high school, coordinated a small group of us college gals to attend the Anne Murray live performance at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln. A few years later my sister and I reveled (at least I did!) to the tunes of Kenny Rogers in Omaha, Nebraska, my birthday gift from that dear sibling. Almost 20 years later, a friend and I eagerly purchased tickets to see Neil Diamond at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Huge fans, we smiled all night long. Around the same time as the Diamond concert, another close friend treated me to a live performance of Sweet Honey in the Rock in Boulder, Colorado. Another magical evening!
Each of these performances touched my soul; actually, fed my soul. As I heard years ago at a prayer group, music speaks to our heads and our hearts. I attended each concert with people who meant a lot to me. That shared experience created memories which continue to nurture me. Differing circumstances surrounded each adventure–some celebratory; others, rough times. Murray’s provided a fun college outing. Shari and I remain close. The concert turned me into a lifelong fan of hers. I also am now a Sweet Honey in the Rock fan! In contrast, with the others, I already was a devotee. The concerts deepened my love and appreciation for their music. Kenny Rogers and the first ABBA concert noted fun times with birthday celebrations. On a different note, this year’s event came at a time when Nan and I both sorely needed some joy and nurturing of our souls. For me, I was worn to a frazzle with my husband’s stage 4 cancer care and treatment (although we have good news– the latest scan came out clean, meaning no active cancer right now!). I almost didn’t go to the concert due to feeling so overwhelmed and stressed out. Thankfully, I reminded myself that that was the exact reason I needed the outing. One month later, I continue to smile whenever I think of the evening’s events. In addition, ABBA and Red Rocks remain near and dear to me. This feeding of my soul thus comes to me in good and challenging times.
My Journey with ABBA
As a teenager, I had a little record player which allowed me to play one album or single 45 rpm record at a time (in today’s vernacular, “vinyls”). I absolutely loved ABBA’s hit, “Dancing Queen.” I played it over and over and over again throughout my teens. I also grew to adore the second song on the flip side of the record, “Fernando.”
The pop group ABBA formed in Sweden in the late 1960s and then grew in prominence in the 1970s. Four young singers comprised this soon-to-be-widely-popular group: Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. ABBA has grown into a worldwide sensation. Their music is filled with energy. lightness, and joy. The Music of ABBA with Arrival from Sweden is the world’s foremost ABBA tribute show, and the group that performed this summer as well as ten years ago when I participated in the concert experience with my aunt at Red Rocks.
Almost 25 years later after I listened to my first ABBA record, my aunt and I enjoyed high tea at an old antique shop in the former mining town, Silver Plume, Colorado. ABBA music played in the background. She pleasantly surprised me when telling me she liked their music–two of us from very different generations. Without a doubt, when the musical “Mama Mia” played in Denver, we couldn’t wait to see the play together. We were not disappointed! ABBA music creatively defines the story line. The songs are fun and filled with energy. I also have enjoyed the “Mama Mia” movie. In fact, when my oldest great niece Kadia was a baby, the movie’s music calmed her when she cried. My nephew-in-law soon grew weary of the tunes but not me, Kadia, or her mom! I own a DVD copy to pull out and watch at any time.
When I heard about the 2007 tribute concert at Red Rocks, I immediately chose that as my aunt’s birthday gift that year. We had so much fun rocking away! In May 2017, I could not believe my ears when I heard the words from the KOSI radio station, “You are the 10th caller. May I have your name, please. You won two tickets to the tribute concert.” Yay!!!!!! I since have discovered several friends the world over who call themselves ABBA fans. What a delight to find this additional commonality.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Red Rocks Amphitheater opened on June 15, 1941. Wow! Our 2017 ABBA tribute concert
marked this outdoor venue’s 76th anniversary, to the date. Up to 9,525 concert goers can fit into this unique venue. Red Rocks’ website beautiful describes this place:
Red Rocks is a geologically formed, open-air amphitheater that is not duplicated anywhere in the world. With Mother Nature as the architect, the design of the Amphitheatre consists of two, three hundred-foot monoliths (Ship Rock and Creation Rock) that provide acoustic perfection for any performance. The dramatic sandstone monoliths serve as a history book of animal and plant life in the area for the past 250 million years. As spectators gaze at the towering red sandstone rocks, they view the ancient tales of prehistoric times.
The area of Red Rocks, originally known as the Garden of Angels, has attracted the attention of musical performers since before the turn of the century. The majestic setting of the amphitheater, along with the panoramic view of Denver, makes for a breathtaking scene.
For college and then the beginning of my career, I lived in eastern Nebraska. One year I vacationed in Colorado. My aunt and I had a delightful visit. She took me to see the Red Rocks Amphitheater. The gorgeous red rocks jutting out of the ground toward the heavens especially stayed with me. When Denver became my home (I moved here in 1990 to attend seminary and continue to bask in the beauty of these mountains on a daily basis ), I added Red Rocks to the travel itinerary of my out-of-town guests.
In 2000 (or possibly 2001), I became quite acquainted with the parking lots at Red Rocks due to a lawsuit against the City of Denver, the owner and operator of this event venue. They had not been meeting the correct Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements for accessible parking. During that performance season, Colorado Cross Disability Coalition hired me as access monitor to check on compliance. Every few weeks I tootled over to this landmark during concerts. I counted accessible spaces in the specified parking lots, ensured the proper access aisles, and checked for handicapped placards or license plates. I met some other workers with whom I often hung out. Together we soaked up the night vibes of the mountains and the music.
I have thoroughly enjoyed each of my concerts. This outdoor venue amidst the red rocks provides a unique added dimension. In addition, I applaud the disability rights activists who work hard to ensure access for all.*
Refreshing Our Souls
I need these times away from my normal routine to refresh my soul. This must take place in good and challenging times. Here in the United States, much is presently in turmoil. This political context, of course, affects me just as does my personal situation. The recent ABBA tribute concert gave me the needed rest and rejuvenation to return to our difficult health and political situations at home and on the national scene. I always will be drawn to both contexts. That is my calling as a scholar activist and a committed spouse, family member, and friend. I do believe more concerts will be in the stars for me!
*A new lawsuit (2017) has been filed against Red Rocks by Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) along with co-counsel at Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) and Disability Law Colorado (DLC) “claiming disability discrimination for failure to make reasonable accommodations to allow people who use wheelchairs to access and enjoy Red Rocks Amphitheatre.”