Pickin’ and singin’ to benefit Cameron church


Cameron United Methodist Church is more than just a building.

It serves its congregation as a faith-based gathering place, but it is also a place that welcomes all sorts of community-wide events — everything from children’s Halloween costume contests to local merchant meetings.

And bluegrass jams.

“Part of the function of Cameron is to be in service to the community,” said Bill Kirton of Denver, who served as the church’s pastor for about 16 years until he retired in 2008. “People love music, and we need it during difficult times. Especially now.”

Cameron church, 1600 S. Pearl St. in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood, hosts community bluegrass jams led by the Denver RetroGrass Jam Band every Sunday and Wednesday.

On Sept. 25, Cameron will host the Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam. This event will serve not only as a family-friendly event that the entire community is invited to, but also as a fundraiser for the church’s building fund which will support restoration of the church’s magnificent stained-glass dome.

“Music has been at the heart of Cameron since the beginning of time,” said Catherine Teutsch of Washington Park, a musician and member of Cameron church. “It brings something beautiful to the community, in terms of the cultural fabric.”

Teutsch’s band MicroGrass will kick off the Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam festivities with an outdoors performance at 11 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., everyone will head indoors for the community jam to be led by the Denver RetroGrass Jam Band. This jam, which will last until 2 p.m., will take place in the church’s sanctuary, under the stained-glass dome.

Everyone and all abilities are welcome at Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam, Teutsch said. Every instrument is welcome, and musicians of all skill levels will be able to participate. Those who do not have instruments are encouraged to come and sing — chords and lyrics for every song will be projected.

“The cool thing about bluegrass is that it is such an accessible music for people,” Teutsch said. Additionally, Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam “is quite unlike any other bluegrass jam because it’s very inclusive.”

In addition to the jams, the Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam will feature vendors, information booths, light refreshments will be available for purchase and Swallow Hill Music — a Denver-based nonprofit music school — will be bringing an instrument petting zoo.

The goal for this year’s Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam is to have at least 150 people participating in the jam and raise $10,000. Because the funds raised from the jam will be a donation to the church, the donors — in this case, the jam organizers — are able to stipulate what the donation can be used for, Teutsch said. Therefore, proceeds from the jam will go to Cameron church’s building fund, which, in turn, will help the structural integrity of the building, including the leaking dome/roof, Teutsch added.

Cameron United Methodist Church was built in 1913, and is a designated historic site. Kirton said its stained-glass dome was created by Watkins Stained Glass Studio — which has been in business in Colorado since 1868 and today is still family-owned, located off South Broadway in Englewood, according to its website.

The RetroGrass community jams also have a long, local history. They got started at Swallow Hill Music roughly 15 years ago, said Tom Connole of Denver who serves as the jam leader. When a space and noise conflict with Swallow Hill’s music classes came about, the jams relocated to a coffee shop off Broadway in Denver called Strange Grounds, Connole said. When that venue closed, Cameron church offered its venue for the jams, with rent being only that RetroGrass provides music during service four times a year, Connole said. This current partnership and agreement has been in place for about five or six years, Connole said.

This year is the third Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam. The first took place in 2017, and the second in 2019. In 2019, about 115 people showed up, and about $6,500 was raised for the church’s building fund, Teutsch said.

The third Denver’s Largest Bluegrass Jam was originally slated to take place in 2021, but was postponed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teutsch said she is “beyond excited” for the event this year.

“It is gratifying to see the joy on people’s faces to have live music back,” she said.

Connole echoed her excitement.

“It is a social event,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to “giving the community the opportunity to help the church, sing some songs, play some instruments — and have some fun.”

Denver's Largest Bluegrass Jam, Cameron United Methodist Church


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