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The Holy Rollers — rock worship with an attitude

The Holy Rollers is a non-denominational band formed in 2004 that provides praise and worship concerts to all Christian faiths.

The band’s beginnings are rooted in Fr. Donald P. Malin’s attempt to help a “parish praise band” break out of a vapid, pseudo-solemn interpretation of praise and worship music. Father Don introduced his philosophy of letting the spirit and style of each song drive the musicians, rather than having the musicians try to tame dynamic music to fit some kind of devotional or holy style which took the heart out of the songs being sung. This, he said, would leave only an empty shell to which no one could relate and that would not inspire anybody to any kind of whole-person response to the message. 

So he invited some of the musicians to his garage, where he had a rudimentary sound board and they did “garage band” rock and roll versions of some of the church songs. Four of the songs worked, but then came the challenge: they were selected as the band for the February Deanery Youth Day four months later, as well as in May to raise funds for World Youth Day in Cologne. Their first CD, “Let’s Roll,” is a live concert recording from that first World Youth Day concert.

Father Malin comes from a musical family. He began studying guitar at age 8, then continued playing through college. At age 13, while studying classical guitar, he was preparing a concerto to perform with Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts series, which would use a youth orchestra in Los Angeles. Before the concert was ready, Bernstein had a heart attack, and the concert was cancelled. 

Father Malin has many music degrees: a B.F.A. in music from Loyola Marymount University in classical guitar and choral conducting, an M.F.A. in music history with an emphasis in Gregorian Chant; and postgraduate hours in music from Colorado University in Boulder. He also has an M.Div. and was ordained as a priest in 2003 at the age of 47. Prior to becoming a priest, he spent 12 years in part-time church ministry, and 13 years of full-time church ministry as a musician, liturgist, catechist and youth minister. 

He began playing guitar publicly at age 9, and has played professionally since 1976. In the past he played guitar, bass, banjo, slide guitar, lute and mandolin in a number of bands, duos and trios, stage shows, rock, country, jazz, big band, blues and folk band. Additionally, he was a music instructor and music department head at Trinidad State Junior College, where he taught music theory, choir, show choir, classical guitar and voice, and produced one opera. Father Don began leading worship in charismatic prayer groups in 1972 when he was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Rollers Band has six members: Lloyd Garduno, Elizabeth Forest, Randy Stanko, Sue Warren, Ellen Engebretsen and Michael McMahon.

Lloyd Garduno plays lead guitar and came to the band through playing at Life Teen masses. His daughter, Missy, was one of the original members of The Holy Rollers before going to college. Lloyd has played lead guitar in club bands for most of his adult life. He has a broad diversity of styles, but prefers the blues.

In her 20s, Elizabeth Forest started playing bass in rock-n-roll bands in Denver. Later she put the bass and the music away and moved onto other things. Sixteen years later, Father Don made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. After blowing the dust off her favorite bass and re-learning what she once knew about music, she is now reliving her dream of playing in a rock band. The dream is even better today, because she is now playing for God.

Randy Stanko, the band’s drummer is an Assembly of God minister, a marriage and family therapist, and a biker. Father Don invited Randy to be part of the band when he and Randy worked together counseling some families. Randy has worshiped through music since his first vocal solo in church in 1970 and has been playing drums since 1998.

Sue Warren has been the music and liturgy director at St. Mary Parish in Montrose since 2001. She has been a musician most of her life, singing and leading worship. Baptized a Methodist, she converted to Catholicism before marrying her husband, Chris. They have three children (including twins) and their, Sarah, earned a degree in music in 2005.

Ellen Engebretsen hails from Janesville, Wis., where she was a parish musician, worked in liturgy, and participated in monthly Taize prayer. Ellen and her husband, Rich, moved to Montrose in 2003. She has two grandchildren and five step-grandchildren and Ellen is a cantor at St. Mary Parish and loves singing Christian Rock. 

Michael R. McMahon’s passion for music developed at age 11, when he began private instruction in classical piano. As a sophomore in high school, he was awarded a dual music/science scholarship to attend the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. It was here that Michael learned to play various melodic percussion instruments. Michael first confirmed his faith in our Lord Jesus Christ also at the age of 11, but social pressures drew him away from the church and into a world of reckless philosophies and sin. He eventually turned to God for direction, and in 2009 became a member of The Holy Rollers.

Father Don and The Holy Rollers are performing in concert tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. at Pope John Paul II Catholic Church, 353 South Pagosa Blvd. Call 731-5744 for more information.

Refreshments will be served.

There will be a free will offering with proceeds going to the Parish Stewardship Ministry.

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