Barbara’s Column With a little help from their friends By BARBARA DIAMOND StuNewsLaguna.com
The audience gave a standing ovation to LagunaTunes Community Chorus at the conclusion of the Spring Concert Sunday in the Artists’ Theatre on the Laguna Beach High School campus. Of course, many in the packed audience were already standing – there were no available seats and even the carpet-less stairs were filled with captivated fans of the Beatles and/or the chorus. “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles” (the title of the concert, an homage to Ed Sullivan’s introduction of the Beatles on his television show on February 9, 1964) was a sellout or would have been if the audience had to pay. The program was a stroll through memory lane, starting with the Beatles songs that made us dance: “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Eight Days a Week,” on which Peter Hornby soloed, “Day Tripper” and “Got to Get You Into My Life.” Songs that brought smiles to our faces included “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Frankie Harrigan’s solo on “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “When I am Sixty-Four” and “Yellow Submarine,” featuring a solo by Chris Martin. Audrey Snyder arranged the medley of “Ticket to Ride,” “Penny Lane” and “Drive My Car.”
The Duo of Cathy Itnyre and LagunaTunes Director and Arranger Bob Gunn concluded the set with “Hello, Goodbye.” Memories were stirred by “Yesterday,” “Michelle,” “The Long and Winding Road” and Jennifer Bullington’s solo on “Let It Be.” The final set included “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and solos by Jay Rechter and Julie Donoho on “Across the Universe,” for which the chorus donned dark glasses. “All You Need is Love” was announced as the conclusion of the concert.
But wait: there was more. No way could “Hey Jude” be omitted. In fact, the audience was invited to sing along. By that time the chorus had been singing for more than two hours without a break. Rehearsal was in full swing by 2:30 p.m. It was sort of like watching the “Builder” vignette at the Pageant of the Masters, as Gunn put the singers through their paces while Technical Director Peter Roche made adjustments to the sound equipment. Gunn, who has been the artistic director of Men Alive Gay Men’s Chorus since August of 2018 and director of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Choir, has directed LagunaTunes since 2012.
The audience was welcomed by Patti Jo Kiraly, noted Laguna Beach jeweler, Sawdust Festival exhibitor and president of LagunaTunes since 2010. Kiraly shared the stage with life-sized cardboard cutouts of the Beatles, not to mention the 60 singers in the chorus, Gunn’s grand piano, from which he directed the program, and a three-piece orchestra: Garrett Wolfe on bass, Adrian Sanchez on guitar and homegrown Elliott Glass on drums. She identified Paul McCartney as the most popular Beatle – John Lennon came in second. She said a ticket to the one of their performances in 1965 cost $5.50. Their collective worth is now estimated at $3 billion – McCartney is believed to be worth the most: $2.5 billion “This concert is free,” she cracked. More importantly, “The Beatles changed music forever,” said Kiraly.
LagunaTunes has been providing entertainment to music lovers since 2003. Among those being entertained on Sunday: former Director of Municipal Services (now called Public Works) Terry Brandt; Patriots Day Parade Committee Member Sandi Werthe; and Jim Kollenda, husband of alto Pat Kollenda, Lisa Morrise and No Square Theatre performer and teacher Roxanna Ward were founding members of LagunaTunes and Ward was the first director.
“We began with seven members,” said Kollenda. “Only one of them was a man and we couldn’t let him quit.” Other spouses of chorus members in the audience included Cody Engle, husband of soprano Deborah Engle and baritone Gary Jenkins’ wife, Betsy, who used to be in chorus. Mayor Bob Whalen, husband of Laguna Beach artist Kirsten Whalen, said it was refreshing to sit in the audience for once. “It was a great show,” said Whalen. “The quality of the singing improves every year.” Whalen was accompanied by his father, Robert Senior, 97. Soprano Diane Kloke’s husband, Cort, was in the audience; and so was their daughter, Laguna Beach High School graduate, Adria, their son, Nathan, daughter-in-law Lauryn, grandsons Leroy, 5, and probably the youngest at the concert, 10-week-old Alexander, and Diane’s sisters Jeanie and Sandy. Others in the audience included Board of Education member Dee Perry, Karen Schwager, Nanci Nielsen, Lori and photographer Don Romero, Ed Merrilees and Dianne Russell.
On Sunday LagunaTunes fulfilled its mission to celebrate community through the joy of singing. Everybody on and off the stage left the theater smiling. The group gives two concerts a year. The limited number is understandable when you learn an estimated 26 rehearsals were held for Sunday’s concert. “It’s hard work,” said Betsy Jenkins. “But so fulfilling.” “I love it,” said Kathy Hanke, wife of Patriots Day Parade Board President Ed Hanke – they are the only married couple in the chorus. The biggest family group is Ingrid, Louise and Barbara Yeager. Newcomers are welcomed to join at the beginning of each concert season – June and September. There are no auditions. Singers range in experience, but all share the love of community in singing.
Rehearsals are held at 7 p.m. Mondays at Thurston Middle School.
LagunaTunes is a nonprofit organization, sponsored by the Festival of Arts, and the Business Improvement District, a collaboration of Laguna’s lodging establishments and the city.
Welcome, Friends and Neighbors
LagunaTunes is a community chorus in Laguna Beach, California. We hang out with friends and we make beautiful music. Some members are trained musicians, but most are not.
Under the leadership of our fabulous director, Bob Gunn, we're always amazed at how good we sound together.
Our mission is to provide local residents with an opportunity to learn and perform music together. All ability levels are welcome - no auditions. Our fast-paced, mood-lifting rehearsals are generously sprinkled with laughs.
This is where we rehearse on Monday nights - in the Thurston Middle School "black box" room: