Music

Front Range Bluegrass band Chain Station (above) performs at the Wright Opera House Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Jayrawk Photography)

The Telluride Bluegrass festival has come and gone for this season. Yet Bluegrass itself springs eternal: there is no better time for this form of music to ring out than high summer, and perhaps no better place than the mountains of Colorado.

Ouray, Colorado — a quintessential mountain town just 10 miles (as the crow flies) over Imogene Pass from Telluride — is a fitting setting for the Front Range bluegrass band Chain Station’s performance on Saturday. What’s perhaps surprising is who’s hosting it: the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild, best known for the classical-music performances it brings to this region each year.

“This may be a first for us,” Heather Greisz, OCPAG’s executive director, said. “We’ve presented tango and chamber music and theater and dance. But this may be the first time we’ve hosted a bluegrass concert.”

“These guys really embody a great, free-spirited sense of Bluegrass that has found a home out here in Colorado,” Yonder Mountain String Band member Dave Johnston (whose Nederland-based outfit has also found a second home in the San Juans) has remarked of Chain Station.

The magazine Band Wagon described Chain’s 2016 release, “Where I Want To Be,” laced with tight harmonies and fast-paced picking, “probably the most pure bluegrass album we’ve heard in some time.”

The band “has been spending most of their time performing. That level of practice explains just how tightly constructed their tunes are…never an off harmony or a wrong pick.”

Indeed, Chain Station arrives in Ouray Saturday after performing at a string of bluegrass fests across the U.S. Greisz said she’s been trying to book them for years.

“It’s been a bit of a dance, between their availability and OCPAG’s schedule. They finally reached out and said, ‘What about this date?’ The Wright Opera House happened to be open. I said, ‘Let’s book them, quick!’”

Also fortuitously, the Wright’s sound technician “is from the Front Range, and has worked with Chain Station,” Greisz said. “We like supporting Colorado artists when we can. The visiting artists at the San Juan Chamber Music Fest last summer were both from the Front Range.”

The pandemic played havoc with musicians’ touring schedules all over the globe these past two years, but bringing in violinist Harumi Rhodes and cellist Alice Yoo, from Denver and Boulder, allowed the fest to go on in 2021.

“We were very lucky,” Greisz said. “We were able to make lemonade out of lemons and had two fantastic days of chamber music. Next month, we’ll be back to our full schedule,” which will include a free children’s concert; a classical café concert (with an option to add a pasta dinner beforehand, for those inclined to dine); an Evening Salon with a seated, catered dinner, and a Festival Concert at the Wright featuring the celebrated Ulysses Quartet.

“It’s a coup for (classical pianist and artistic director) Max (Levinson) to get Ulysses here,” Greisz said. “We’ve already started offering tickets to the salon,” which takes place at a private home in Ridgway with views of Mt. Sneffels.

“On Monday, any tickets remaining will be for sale on our website. The view, the mountains, the gardens are so beautiful.”

Perhaps the best thing about this quintessential, iconic landscape for music lovers is the fact that the San Juans are instantly beguiling.

“When you explain we’re in Ouray, artists sound skeptical,” Greisz said with a laugh. “They ask, ‘Where is that?’ Those who do come want to return again and again.”

The five-piece bluegrass band Chain Station performs Saturday at the Wright Opera House at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild and its programs, visit ocpag.org.