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Denver & the Mile High Orchestra
Some artists strive their entire careers to fill a niche—one that seems to change with trends, musical tastes and maybe even the blowing wind. Others—like Denver & The Mile High Orchestra—simply carve their own, then fill it up to overflowing.
Having come together just over a decade ago at Nashville’s Belmont University, the popular band has traveled the world, performing for thousands at churches, festivals, even at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. On top of that, they’re Christian music’s premier Big Band, creating a wall of sound with trumpet, saxophone, trombone and rhythm that has audiences dancing in the aisles. With four acclaimed recordings under their belt—Good To Go, Timeless Christmas, Stand, and the band’s 2000 debut, Act The Scat—Denver & The Mile High Orchestra is turning their creative focus to their first Children’s project, Groovy. Blending the ensemble’s trademark upbeat arrangements with fun songs that will have kids singing along about their Creator, it’s likely to have some new fans playing air trumpet, too.
So what’s one of the top contenders from FOX’s “The Next Great American Band” doing making a kids record? Shouldn’t they be buying hip new clothes and trying to fit some pop music mold to capitalize on their success? Not so fast—because for Denver and his bandmates, Groovy IS the dream. Being a Godly parent, raising great kids that love Jesus—and have an appreciation for all different styles of music, to boot—that’s the dream God gave this band.
“We walked away from that show with a deep sense that our band was supposed to do music for the American family—positive, uplifting messages for families,” says Denver Bierman, lead vocalist and founder of the group. “And honestly, my wife had a lot of foresight, too. She’s been saying for a long time that the kind of vibe and energy we have would really translate for kids and families. Then we met up with Go Fish’s Jamie Statema and God put a lot of things into place.”
When the opportunity to partner with Go Fish came along, as the first outside signing for the veteran children’s entertainers’ venture, gfk Records, the decision for Denver was easy. And in turn, the pairing became “a really cool marriage,” he says, noting that each group benefitted from the other. “They’re vocally driven; we’re instrumentally driven.” Plus they had more fun than grown men should be allowed to have, choosing songs from their own childhoods and writing new cuts for their new—if slightly shorter—audience.
One immediate sing-a-long for the under five-foot crowd (and their parents) is the classic “I Am A Promise.” Penned by Christian music pioneer Bill Gaither, the song holds a special place in Denver’s heart. “Growing up in ‘Bill Gaither country’ in Indiana, there are a few songs I remember every single word of from children’s church, and ‘I Am A Promise’ is one of those,” he recalls. “The melody of this song really lends itself to a Big Band treatment.”
Another legendary songwriter leaves his mark on Groovy, as the band creates their rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Man Gave Names To All The Animals,” originally from his landmark 1979 release, Slow Train Comin.’ Partnering with their Go Fish friends to showcase the vocal partnership, and utilizing no instruments but percussion, the song is sure to leave kids mooing, oinking and baa-ing—which, from this audience, is high praise indeed.
“We went into recording this album and said, ‘Let’s make this fun. Let’s not worry about whether something is the right sound for radio—we’ll just use instinct and energy, and have a blast,’” says Denver. “And I think that stuff translates—it’s an intangible thing, when you’re having fun.”
The fun they had making Groovy is contagious for the listener. Great arrangements of fun songs will please both parents and adults, from “Groovy ABCs” to “Sunday School Swing,” a medley of classics that includes “The B-I-B-L-E,” “Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho” and “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” And, of course, Denver & The Mile High Orchestra stay true to their focus of bringing a Christian message to these little fans with big ears. “’With All My Heart’ is a worship song we think a child will really love,” Denver says. “In fact my own son recently started belting it out, singing, I love you God with all of my heart. It was amazing.”
It’s also important to this group of seasoned musicians to leave a legacy of both faith and music, bringing classic sounds to kids who might never have he