1936 - 2017
As a toddler, Mike emigrated with his family from Nazi Germany in 1938, living in California and New York before settling in Colorado. He served in the US Air Force and graduated from what is now the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley. He and his wife, Mary Jo, settled in the Denver area about 1963.
He worked as the Choral Director at Bear Creek High School for 31 years, was the Musical Director for the Arvada United Methodist Church for 8 years, and served as the Director of the 30-person Temple Sinai Choir for 12 years.
For 30 years (1980 - 2010) Mike Weiker served as the Music and Artistic Director of The Evergreen Chorale, developing and sustaining a level of professionalism far beyond the norm for a community choral group.
The Chorale had been formed in 1972 by Roy and Ruth Seeber, whose demanding style set the standard for excellence. Membership in the Chorale was (and still is) through a tough audition, according to the Sternbergs, who wrote Evergreen, our Mountain Community.
In 1976, Duain Wolfe took the podium with his reputation for having been one of the most talented choral directors in Colorado history. When Wolfe departed to achieve greater critical acclaim, finding someone someone to carry on the level of excellence to which the group had been accustomed to was not an easy task.
With 80 voices, numerous rehearsals, and differing styles, the demands on a director were significant, but nothing compared to starting the job performing in a facility (now Center/Stage) that had just been condemned. When interviewing for the job, one of his questions was, "How in the world could anyone put on a performance in this kind of a venue?" Despite the situation and Weiker's candor, he started the next Monday.
The rustic, one-room auditorium that had been completed in 1924 and used as part of the nationally known Evergreen Conference Church Music Schools had been known as The Meeting House. It was utilized by The Evergreen Chorale for two major productions each year despite the lack of a furnace, indoor restrooms, and proper seating.
Two large, propane-operated space heaters would be brought in to warm the facility and moved out before the audience arrived with blankets to keep themselves comfortable throughout the performances.
In 1980 The Meeting House was acquired by the Chorale, but the land continued to be owned by The Evergreen Attachment Center. More than $1 million in grants and private donations funded upgrades and improvements, enhancing its design for performances but preserving its rustic appeal. The comfort level has dramatically improved with the addition of a furnace, indoor flush toilets, and theatre-type seating. The Chorale is currently engaged in a legacy campaign to purchase the land beneath the building.
"There was lots of support from the community," Weiker recalled, adding that the Rotary Club of Evergreen was responsible for the addition of the lobby to the performing venue. "It was a thrill to see all who got behind [the reonovation]."
Having people experience some of the great choral shows and music, complete with orchestra, was very rewarding for Weiker. Some of the more memorable productions included My Fair Lady, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Most Happy Fella, Fiddler on the Roof, and Mikado (the latter was taken on tour to the Colorado Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs and the Lakewood Cultural Center).
"There was not another experience in my professional career that could come up to that," said Weiker when reflecting on his 30 years with The Evergreen Chorale prior to retirement. "They were volunteers but truly professional. They had great ideas, support, and enthusiasm. They did very commendable music."
Some of the outstanding performers in the group included his daughter, Leah Hamilton, Bruce and Gail Montgomery, Donna Worley, Bob Meade, Geoff Woddell, Paul Ahlquist, Susie Vancil, Mike Moore, and Russell Lehrer. He also credited accompianist Doris Bohling as his left arm for many years before she died in 2003, and Business Manager Marcia Phelps for her daily assistance in handling the details associated with auditions, rehearsals, and performances of each production until her death in 1998. "What Marcia offered continued on."
In 2006, he led a smaller group of the Chorale on a two-week Scandinavian tour of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, giving six full performances in different venues. The group received a standing ovation at every performance.
At Weiker's invitation, nationally acclaimed composer, arranger, and choral director Norman Luboff spent a weekend in Evergreen and conducted two concerts at Center/Stage.
In 1993 American composer, songwriter, arranger, choral conductor, and actor Jester Hairston was a guest conductor for the Chorale. Age 91 at the time, Hairston conducted a one-hour-forty-five-minute concert without stopping, according to Weiker. Hairston served as a goodwill ambassador for the US State Department around the world for the last decade of his life.
At the podium during rehearsal one inght in the mid-1990s, Mike collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Through the quick action of three choral members – Peter Montgomery, a physician; Gary Muse and Janie Hamilton, both emergency medical technicians – Weiker was brought back. The incident inspired an effort by one of the Leadership Evergreen classes to put portable defibrillators in various public places throughout the community. After months of recuperation, Weiker was able to resume his command of the group, not retiring until 2010.
Although he never lived in Evergreen, Mike Weiker greatly influenced the quality of life in Evergreen.
Sources: Mike Weiker and Evergreen, our Mountain Community