Meet Dunedin's own John Denver

Bevan Gardiner, with guide dog Denim, gets ready for his lead role in the John Denver tribute Whisper the Wind.
Bevan Gardiner, with guide dog Denim, gets ready for his lead role in the John Denver tribute Whisper the Wind.
Dunedin musician Bevan Gardiner turns 21 today, but he has already been given the best present he could imagine.

The partially-sighted John Denver fan is about to take the lead role in an international show on Denver's life and music.

The world premiere of Whisper the Wind opens in Dunedin next week.

"It's a really big thing for me. I've never done anything like this before," the former Logan Park High School pupil said yesterday.

"It's challenging, but it's going to be a fantastic experience.

"I've been a big John Denver fan for about 14 years . . . He has a crystalline quality to his voice and he sings songs from the heart."

Gardiner travelled to Aspen, Colorado, last year for the 10th annual John Denver Tribute Week, where he met Denver's mother, Irma Deutschendorf, and brother, Ron Denver.

"They were great people. His brother's a really hard case."

Gardiner has been partially-sighted since birth.

"I've got between 5% and 10% vision, so I can see colours and outlines of people, but that's about it. But it's never stopped me from doing what I want to do," he said.

"Someone takes me on and off stage, but we're going to experi-ment with a set of rope lights going to the microphone. Once I'm at the mike, I get a feel for where everything is."

Gardiner has won awards for the past three years at the Gold Guitar Awards and Country Music Awards of Australia singing the Denver songs My Sweet Lady and Whispering Jesse.

He has lived all his life in Dunedin and is studying for a bachelor of music degree at the University of Otago.

He has a guide dog, Denim.

Gardiner has been rehearsing for Whisper the Wind over the past week with six international musicians.

The show features 25 of Denver's songs and family footage of the singer edited at TaylorMade Productions in Dunedin.

Promoter Dennis Brown said United States promoters had been "astounded" by the similarity between Gardiner and Denver.

"We sent Denver's long-time business partner, Harold Thau, a tape of Bevan singing and John singing and said 'which one is John Denver?' He said 'What are you talking about? They're both John Denver'."

Denver died on October 12, 1997, when the aircraft he was piloting along the California coast crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Monterey Bay in California. He was 53.

Whisper the Wind opens at the Regent Theatre on Saturday, September 20.