The late singer/entertainer Dean Martin had a popular television show some years ago where he would sometimes start a song, stop in the middle of it and look into the camera and exclaim, "Wasn’t that purty?"
I was kind of thinking of this the other evening when I attended a session of the South Bay Community Chorale over at the Paradise Village Freedom Theater. I was the guest of a long-time friend and former colleague, Jayne MacCabe, who has been associated with the singing group for some years. The group, I understand, meets each Monday evening and also has performances at the theater.
The singing group was launching their 13th season, one they bill as a lucky one. Since I was a novice at such beginnings I did not know what to expect. The group, numbering about 30 voices had settled down in what I thought was a haphazard manner. There were a group of ladies at one side, another at the opposite end with a group of men behind the ladies. The musical director, Lauren Walden, a long time teacher of choral music, was front and center. What I thought was going to be a basic organizational session fooled me completely. Within a very few minutes that “haphazard” group evolved into a synchronized bevy of sounds that elicited that “purty sound” from me. I did not know that harmony could sound so pleasing.
I, of course, should have known better. The South Bay Community Chorale started in September 2000 as part of the Chula Vista Adult Program. The first musical director was Ron Boles, a legend in South Bay musical circles. At that time he was the director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts at Chula Vista High School. The choral group continued to grow and at their peak had more than 80 voices performing for various venues in the South Bay. The Chula Vista Adult Program was terminated in 2009. And with it we almost saw the termination of choral group as well.
We say “almost” because members of the chorus thought differently. They had a good thing and were not going to see it fall by the wayside. They employed the talents of Laura Charles, another legend in South Bay vocal music, who volunteered to become the leader. Charles was, and still is, a musical director at Sweetwater High School. We remember her from the days of the South Bay Benefit Concert that Jim Doyle and I used to host at Eastlake High School. She had nearly 100 voices from Sweetwater High School who royally entertained. She continued leading the South Bay Chorale Group until this year.
The South Bay group has performed in many local venues. They have graced the stages of the Chula Vista High School Performing Arts Theater, the Ruth Chapman Theater at Eastlake High School, the theater at Fredericka Manor, St John Episcopal Church and their present home at Paradise Village. The near demise of the music program at Chula Vista schools had made it difficult to obtain a steady venue for practices.
The chorale group, by the way, boasts a varied repertoire. Their programs range from old gospel and secular selections to the contemporary that includes tunes from Broadway and movie classics. The other evening they demonstrated with selections in Latin to the Beatles. What could be more diversified than that?
Walden, the director, tells me that they are always in search of more voices. Interested people may drop in at rehearsal time at the Paradise Village Theater on Monday evening at six p.m. She is especially hoping for more sopranos and tenors. Anyone, however, is welcome. Voices, of any range, you know, make “purty sounds.”