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Randy and Carole Barnes make music in Buena Vista

Article by Sue Snively

Local Musicians – December 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

THERE IS A COUPLE in the Arkansas valley who make music in an almost infinite variety, from Celtic, in the form of Irish jigs and Scottish melodies, to Polkas to cowboy ballads. Their musical repertoire includes Gospel and Classical; wedding music and funeral music; songs written by a variety of composers and songs written by one of them. They perform by themselves, and with others, display exceptional vocal talents, and incorporate many instruments into their performances.

They are Randy and Carole Barnes of Buena Vista.

Randy and Carole both have extensive music backgrounds, and have been performing together since the mid 1980s. Carole sings, plays the guitar, and teaches first grade at Avery-Parsons Elementary. Randy holds a degree in music and recreation from Adams State College and teaches kindergarten through twelfth grade music at the Darren Patterson Christian Academy.

Randy primarily plays the hammered dulcimer, concertina, guitar and spoons, usually with Carole accompanying him, and he also sings and writes music — composing many of the songs they include in their performances.

Randy Barnes with a concertina
Randy Barnes with a concertina

Their Performances

During the summer, Randy and Carole Barnes have weekly gigs at Elk Mountain, Spring Canyon, and Deer Valley Guest Ranches in the Buena Vista Area. In Westcliffe, they perform regularly at the Horn Creek Guest Ranch.

Their performances are tailored to entertain their specific audiences, which often include people from other countries. The most exciting part of their summer work is that no two performances are alike; each week brings a different group of guests, coming from different places and backgrounds, and Randy and Carole adjust their music accordingly.

“One of the most exciting aspects of performing for the guest ranches,” they say, “is that the music acts like an ice breaker and brings the guests together … to get to know each other and become friends instead of strangers.”

Carole and Randy perform for many local events. They play at Gold Rush Days in Buena Vista and also the town’s 4th of July parade (although “playing from the deck of a moving flatbed trailer was a bit of a challenge,” says Randy). They play at art events and for the summer music program at the historic Turner Farm. They also provide music for the monthly Buena Vista Community Dance; serve on the Clearview Community Church Worship Team; perform as part of “Crossroads Gathering,” the local Celtic-Christian Ensemble; and play at weddings and funerals.

Carole remembers one particular wedding at Twin Lakes where they had to walk about a quarter of a mile with their instruments and portable sound system across a swinging bridge, up a bank and over a grassy meadow to the wedding location, which wouldn’t have been a huge challenge, if it hadn’t been for the prolific downpour.

(It should be noted here that the portability of their musical equipment is ideal for outdoor events, especially mountaintop weddings. But wedding bookings of such a nature should be made well in advance!)

The Music

There’s a cowboy song called “Whoopie Tie” from the days of the trail drive. It’s not of the current country/western variety, but dates back at least 100 years to a cowboy culture of long ago. The many verses were invented by individual cowboys, and are unrelated to each other, but are tied together by a chorus which presents a set theme. A sample verse goes: “Some boys ride with a trail herd for pleasure. That’s where they get it most awfully wrong. Well, ya haven’t any idea what trouble they give us, as the little dogies go rollin’along.” This particular musical form was brought from Mexico by the Vaqueros.

Or there’s the tune, “Be Thou My Vision,” in which Sue Greiner, Randy and Carole harmonize to convey an old Irish poem with a tune that dates back to the 9th Century.

There’s also the gospel song they perform, “To Caanan’s Land” which was written in 1907 by William Golden.

And the Celtic music, the traditional Irish Polka medley, and the Scottish songs including “Down the Brae” and “Meeting of the Waters.”

Randy’s own compositions include “Erica’s Air” which he composed for a wedding. “Dorothy Shaw” was written in tribute to the late Dorothy and Dr. Lloyd Shaw “who were giants in the field of American dance and credited as being parents of modern square dancing.” Another, rather haunting and beautiful composition, is called “Long Awaited.”

Carole Barnes at the keyboard
Carole Barnes at the keyboard

In 2002, Carole and Randy Barnes recorded, with the help of many local participants, their own CD called “Long Awaited.” The performers featured on the CD are Randy Barnes, who sings and plays the hammered dulcimer, concertina, spoons and guitar; Carole Barnes, who contributes her voice and guitar; Sue Greiner with the tin whistle, recorder and voice; Dennis Fischer on the fiddle; and Mark Minor on the mandolin.

The CD project was engineered by Christian Recording Engineer, Nathan Clark George at Horn Creek Conference Grounds, near Westcliffe, Colorado. The cover art was painted by Rev. Bill Swegart and the disc art was courtesy of Grant Heilman. The graphics and design were created by Tim Dannels and Randy Barnes.

All of the arrangements on the CD are by Randy Barnes, with the exception of one jig, which was arranged by John McCutcheon. The arrangements mentioned above were on the CD. (Inquiries about purchasing the CD may be made through The Enchanted Strings Music Company, 719-395-6704.)

Other Musical Activities

Dancing is aso a part of Randy and Carole’s lives. At one time, they were both professional dancers for the Central City Opera House Company, and now they teach traditional dancing. In fact, Randy has been teaching and calling dances for over 41 years. Their repertoire includes line dancing, traditional western squares, longways sets, and couples mixers. As might be expected, they have a way of making the dancing fun and interesting for those who participate.

Timbre Line Music, a company Randy started in the early 1980s with his business partner, Mitch Pingel, handcrafts two musical instruments, the Hammered Dulcimer and Timbreharps, their version of the Autoharp. These handcrafted masterpieces are distributed around the world.

When Randy Barnes plays the dulcimer, it’s easy to see how the instrument got its name, which combines the Latin and Greek words “dulce” and “melos,” and translates to mean “sweet tune.”

Randy and Carole Barnes both add sweet tunes to cultural events in Central Colorado — and also sprightly jigs, traditional ballads, gospel, country, western, Celtic, dance, song, fun, and variety.

If you haven’t heard them perform, you can sample some of their selections by listening to their CD. Or better yet, listen to their CD, then attend several of their performances and/or dances in order to be awed by the diversity, talent, range, and energy of this dynamic duo.

The hammered dulcimer
The hammered dulcimer

The Barnes can be contacted by calling 719-395-6704. For more about Randy’s hammered dulcimers check

Sue Snively writes from Buena Vista.