The voice of John Denver will reverberate through the Oamaru Opera House on May 7.
Well, not exactly his voice, but internationally-renowned sound-alike Bevan Gardiner. The Dunedin-based musician has become synonymous with the singer-songwriter who died in a plane crash in 1997.
Gardiner stars in a touring show called “Take Me Home – The Music & Life of John Denver”. He is accompanied by five musicians, including Canadian musical director David Walker and vocalist Georgie Daniell.
While they perform, archival film footage of Denver’s life and achievements is screened to the audience.
The show has been authorised by Denver’s long-serving personal manager and friend Harold Thau, becoming the only official tribute show.
Gardiner fell for Denver’s music at the age of 7, when he first heard it on a cassette tape during a family holiday.
The partially-sighted musician, who sees people only as silhouettes, was eventually invited to perform at the 10th Annual John Denver Tribute Week in Aspen, Colorado, in 2007.
He met Denver’s mother and brother and performed with members of his original band.
When Gardiner was Charley Pride’s support act during an Australasian tour in 2013, the American said, “Close yesterday our eyes and it’s just like listening to John.”
Gardiner spoke about the show to the Oamaru Mail via phone from Dunedin, where he is a music teacher in between tours.
“I think it will have a shelf-life, but at the moment there’s still demand for it and we’re going to do it.
“The band, myself, and the production crew, we all enjoy it. It’s a good format.”
There was a lot more to it than just singing Denver’s songs, he said.
“It’s John telling his story.
“We have fun. At each show, we come down the front and meet the audience afterwards. We love doing that.”
The performers sit at a table and sign programmes and CDs.
“It’s a great way to get feedback,” Gardiner said.
It was also gratifying to leave each venue knowing they have made people happy.
Denver’s early death i led to improved safety in aircraft, so Denver’s death was not in vain, Gardiner said.
“And he died doing something he loved.”
The show did not leave the audience dwelling on the tragedy, he said.
“We bring them back up with a couple of good songs. It’s great we can do that.”
Gardiner, who has performed in the Oamaru Opera House with Isla Grant, said he was looking forward to returning.
“It’s cool coming through the smaller centres.”