After no services all summer, the Hedley Grace Church was host to a lively Bluegrass concert Saturday evening. It was a capacity crowd with people arriving from various points in the Similkameen valley, including Keremeos, Cawston and Hedley. Obviously pleased at the turnout, Pastor Graham Gore said, “I wish the church was always this packed Sunday morning”.
The concert featured George Huber and Colleen Cox, popular entertainers on the BC Bluegrass circuit. It was their final performance, following appearances on stages in places like Falkland, Greenwood, Midway, Summerland and Maple Ridge. After living and touring in their motor home most of the summer, they will no doubt be happy to return to their home near Lund, BC.
They brought their unique talents to the Sunday morning church service as well. During the coffee and cake social time afterwards, Colleen told me a little of their story. It began just over 14 years ago at a time when they were both living alone.
“A friend suggested I invite George out for coffee,” she said. “He was a very skilled musician then already. He accepted my invitation and that’s how it all started.”
“We began spending time together and he took me along to some of his family’s gatherings. They are very musical and pretty soon George told me that if I was going to hang out with his family, I really needed to learn to play an instrument.”
Colleen admitted to great misgivings about this idea. Although she had received voice training in a Catholic school many years ago, and had sung harmony in a number of choirs, she did not think she could learn to play an instrument. When her daughter became aware of her dilemma, she offered her the use of an expensive guitar and encouraged her to give it a try.
“George took me to a music workshop and I enrolled in a class to learn to play guitar. I told the instructor I didn’t even know how to take the instrument out of its case.” After that she attended other workshops and George also patiently tutored her.
“I learned to play in the key of g,” she remembers. “At a gathering of George’s family, the instruments came out and I played with them.” Afterward George came to her and said, “I don’t want to disappoint you Colleen, but not all tunes are played in the key of g.” While they had switched to other keys, she had blithely continued on in g.
Now, after 14 years of practising and performing together, they are a delight for Bluegrass enthusiasts. At age 83, George still has the robust energy to create an aura of excitement and to lift the spirits of the audience. Colleen is equally vibrant and according to George, she is the one who creates their magical harmony.
George and Colleen have a strong following in the Similkameen Valley. Many of their fans will be waiting for their next appearance when the Bluegrass season resumes in spring.