Raye returns to Sheldon with Patsy Cline tribute
If it's Friday, she must be Patsy Cline.
Colleen Raye, Pierce County's world-traveling songstress, takes on multiple musical personalities when she performs her "Girl Singers" concerts at venues large and small.
But when she returns to the Sheldon Theatre stage on March 8, Raye will bring back the beloved country singer she first introduced to Red Wing audiences in 1992 in her original stage show "Heart Songs."
Raye will perform "A Musical Tribute to Patsy Cline" twice, at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 8.
Her first performance of the iconic singer's music at the Sheldon in over 25 years, the tribute falls just a few days past the anniversary of Cline's death in an airplane crash on March 5, 1963.
Cline's music still is popular, more than a half-century after her death. Raye will sing some of her greatest hits, including "I Fall To Pieces," "Walkin' After Midnight" and "Crazy," along with some lesser known gems such as "Eyes of a Child" and "You Belong To Me."
In a newly reworked version of the country show, she also has added her original tune "Heart Songs," which is about a person hearing Patsy Cline sing for the first time.
A steel guitar has been added to the backup band, Raye added. That quartet includes Norton Lawellin on keys, Dan Lund on guitar, Joe Savage on steel guitar, and Kipp Galloway on drums — replacing her son Reed Grimm, who is touring.
According to the Sheldon, "Colleen Raye brings the presence of Patsy Cline into the room, singing her songs with a heartfelt sincerity and skill that is rare, while also sharing stories of Patsy's life."
Audiences are known to laugh and sing along, and sometimes even yodel to the familiar country songs and hold hands during the romantic numbers.
A multi-media show has been added to the performance to enhance the storytelling with visuals, Raye said.
Raye has been performing locally — including the Sheldon — since she was a teenager. She graduated from Ellsworth High School in 1970, and was regularly heard singing with the Tradewinds, her brother Dick Armbruster's band.
The fun of performing with her brother was revived this during her just-ended vacation in Florida, she said. Together they played and sang during happy hours, including Wisconsin Days at one condo.
During her teens, Raye also appeared in Red Wing Community Theatre productions at the Sheldon, including "Li'l Abner" and "Flower Drum Song."
She was performing as a jazz vocalist when she met Steve Grimm, a former New Christy Minstrel. As a married couple they developed their own nightclub act and stage show, and as their children came along, they often became part of the performance — to the delight of Red Wing audiences.
The kids all developed musical careers. The youngest, Reed Grimm, is on an extended tour in Australia; Sophie Grimm is acting and singing in Chicago; Jennifer Grimm is living in White Bear Lake, Minn., and doing voice work, recording and performing; and Trey Grimm is traveling the Midwest with Dueling Pianos and also performing at Nye's in the Twin Cities.
Raye still lives in Pierce County and performs all over her original stomping grounds, from Prescott to Stockholm, Hastings to Hudson, where she's been playing to sold-out crowds at the Phipps Center for the Arts on New Year's Eve for 25 years.
She also can be seen on "Midwest Country" on the Dish network, a country music show seen nationwide that films in Sandstone, Minn.
Red Wing also counts among her favorite stops.
"It's kind of like home," she said. "I'm really glad to be coming back."
Tickets to "A Musical Tribute to Patsy Cline" are $25. Visit the Sheldon box office, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.
Next up: symphony orchestra, country duets
Colleen Raye’s creative energy has spawned numerous musical shows, including several “Girl Singers” performances highlighting music from the old Hit Parade and cabarets featuring tunes from Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack.
To no one’s surprise, she’s still at it.
“I’m working on a show with the St. Croix Valley Symphony – 65 pieces,” she said. That concert is planned for October at the Phipps in Hudson.
Of interest to Red Wing fans is a duet show with local musician Tony Cuchetti which is scheduled to debut next summer.
Raye first heard Cuchetti perform at the grand reopening of the Sheldon Theatre last fall. “He was in the Green Room,” she said. “I loved his voice, and his persona.”
She bought Cuchetti’s CD and approached him about working together.
“He’s so good,” she said. “I can see him going far beyond where he is. He belongs up on the main stage.”
For the show they are developing Raye and Cuchetti will country music duets, old and new, and other hits they just enjoy singing together, she said. They’ll debut the show in August at the Pierce County Fair in Ellsworth.