Dillon Concert Association season opens Sept. 27

J.P. Plutt
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Opening act

Steve Leslie will perform the music of James Taylor on Sept. 27 at the UMW Beier Auditorium as the first concert in the DCA Series.

The Dillon Concert Association, for the 74th year, will bring a slate of concerts to Dillon featuring a variety of musicians who for an evening will provide live entertainment of professional excellence that can be enjoyed in the beautifully restored Beier Auditorium on the University of Montana Western campus. Steve Leslie, a baritone and exceptional guitar player, will open this year’s 2022-23 series on Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. with his program “How Sweet It Is!” Leslie will perform a catalog of songs in a tribute to singer-songwriter James Taylor.

According to Laurie Hagenbarth, the local group began as the Concert Association and in 1948 offered their first slate of shows. The offerings were mostly classical music through the early years but the 1960s brought to Dillon folk groups The New Christy Minstrels and Serendipity Singers, among the biggest groups in the country, selling millions of albums and sparking the solo careers of Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes and Barry McGuire.

The UMW auditorium would be packed for each concert well through the 1970s as membership in the Concert Association exceeded the capacity of the auditorium. The annual series would offer area residents a formal night out to listen to some of the best musicians in the country.

The Dillon Concert Association works with Allied Concert Services from Minnesota to bring acts to Dillon. Allied recruits a large slate of groups each year and makes them available to groups like the DCA. The Dillon group then watches video and reads biographical information on each act and then selects the slate of talent they plan to bring to Dillon.

“We go for variety,” said Hagenbarth of the four concert selections for this season. “It is getting to where we have fewer classical offerings. We do have some, and most of these acts are classically trained even if the are singing broadway (or another genre).”

Pat Brown, another volunteer with the DCA, is impressed by the “great, great depth of talent,” the concert group is able to bring to Dillon.

“You are talking about artists pursuing their music in various ways,” said Brown. “You are talking musicians that have played in venues throughout Europe and the United States. You are talking about deep, deep talent.”

While the talent level of the performers remains at an incredibly high level, the presentation has changed over the past decade or so. At one time, it was strictly the music, but the performances have not evolved to an interactive experience between the acts and the audience throughout the performances.

“It used to be very sterile,” recalled Hagenbarth. “If it was a pianist, he might stand up and bow once in a while and that was it. I think now they are trying to educate audiences and it makes it much more enjoyable for the audiences to know something about the piece and why it was written. So the personality from the stage has become very important and makes it more enjoyable for everybody.”

This year’s schedule opens on Tuesday, Sept. 27 with Steve Leslie and his James Taylor tribute. The series returns to its classical roots on Dec. 5 with the performance of classical pianist Jeeyoon Kim. On Feb. 17 the Frisson Ensemble is a classical six-person group from New York City that willl perform a variety of genres and styles including classical, popular, folk and jazz.

The final concert will play March 20 with the 5-person a cappella singing group Backtrack Volcals taking the stage. The band will perform their versions of pop, folk, motown, and standard hits.

Both Hagenbarth and Brown are mystified why more people don’t take advantage of the concert series of top, professional artists performing incredible music live in Dillon.

“It is a great bargain and we would like to share it with more people,” said Brown. “We have four and sometimes five concerts a year and it is a great bargain. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of it.

For those that enjoy spending a night in a room filled with beatiful music, you can buy a single performance ticket or you can purchase a membership to enjoy the full season of concerts. An adult membership is $50 for the season or $20 for a single show. Kids through high school can get the season for $6, and college students can enjoy the full slate for $10.

For more information on tickets, sponsorships or the concert series, you can call Pat Brown (406-925-0618) or Laurie Hagenbarth (406-683-5050).