Girl from the City returns to Colorado, performs at Fir

Judy Collins brought her magical voice aboard the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad on July 6 and 7 for concerts at Fir. Trained as a concert pianist, Collins also performed on a piano that was brought in for the show. Her long-time musical director Russell Walden explained that it was just a piano shell. The electronics were inside. But it left several concert goers wondering how the railroad got it there.

FIR — She didn’t sing The City of New Orleans, but Judy Collins did sit down for an interview with the Courier aboard the City of New Orleans railroad car. She was in Alamosa July 6 and 7 to ride the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad and give two concerts at Fir.

Admitting she is still a Colorado girl at heart, even though Collins lives in New York City, she returns to Colorado as often as she can, usually in the summer and winter. On Sunday she sang a new song about Colorado that will on a new CD coming out in 2020 called Resistance and Beauty. That will include more new songs she has written, including an a cappella protest song, Dreamers, that is dedicated to immigrants and asylum seekers and protesting the current administration’s policy on immigrants.

Making the issue of immigration a local one, Collins said “I took a picture of the Rio Grande [and sent it] to my husband. He said ‘yes, that’s the river they found that little girl and her father who had drowned further downstream.’”

She just finished working on a CD that will be out in November with Chatham County Line, a four-member bluegrass group, who opened for Collins at Fir. They also sang a few songs with her. Saturday’s performance at Fir was the first time they had been on-stage outside of rehearsal and recording Winter Stories in Ashville, Tenn. Last February.

That CD will include such Collins standards as The Blizzard, Fallow Way and Mountain Girl. “It has a wintery feel to it,” she explained. “It also has one of the greatest songs ever written, that people don’t know [in the United States], but it’s a Canadian National Anthem which is called the Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers about Lord Franklin’s attempt to find the Northwest Passage. It is one of those [songs] that is the most fun to sing.”

Now in her sixth decade of performing, staying busy and fit has helped Collins maintain her energy to perform as many concerts as she does every year. There are currently 34 scheduled through the end of this year.

“I have been lucky with my health. I had major illnesses, but they were before I was sober [39 years ago],” Collins commented. That was also when she started studying with her singing coach who taught her to use the entire range of her phenomenal voice. When asked, she said that most people don’t realize that when she quit drinking, the quality of her voice improved.

Now she openly talks about her sobriety.

Her long-time musical director, Russell Walden said about Collins love for Colorado, “I have traveled with her from New York to California, and Colorado is the only place she presses her nose against the window to look out.”

As for performing at Fir, Collins said it is one of the most unique venues she has ever given a concert. Walden, on the other hand, missed the train boarding the SLRG for the return trip and took the high-railer truck back to Alamosa.

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