Community chorus tunes up for holidays |

Community chorus tunes up for holidays

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunSusan Horst directs the Truckee Community Chorus in a rehearsal Monday at Alder Creek Middle School. The chorus will present holiday concerts Dec. 8-9 at Sierra Bible Church in Truckee and Squaw Valley.

What do a Caltrans manager, a gynecologist and an accountant with a law degree have in common?

They are members of the 62-strong Truckee Community Chorus, a local group that performs two shows this weekend.

A charter member since the group’s inception in 2002, alto singer Fran Sandwith, 60, said joining the chorus changed her life because of the many friendships she’s gained.

“Once you sing with a group in harmony it’s like ” I am literally transformed,” Sandwith said.

The Donner Summit resident manages the Caltrans maintenance station at Kingvale that has an 82-bed dormitory and a kitchen. Sandwith said many who attend the Truckee Community Chorus concerts are amazed at the resonant quality of 60 voices filling a room. This Christmas season, the chorus will be accompanied for the first time by a string quartet.

“This is good [for] the community,” Sandwith said. “Our hope is to spread our love for choral music.”

The group will perform contrasting pieces in this year’s holiday concerts. The first is a baroque selection composed by Antonio Vivaldi, also known as the red-haired priest. The 18th century musician composed The Gloria on his violin in 1719, according to Associate Director Susan Horst. The lyrics come from the Latin Mass.

The 300-year old hymn is both light-hearted and playfully optimistic, Horst said.

The second half of the show will include a medley of traditional Christmas carols, including “Deck the Halls” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

The Community Chorus encourages its audience to sing along. Last year, about 20 children were invited on stage to sing along, said Musical Director Chris Nelson.

“I think it is really about getting into the holiday spirit and participating in a community event,” Nelson said.

Soliciting the public’s participation, the group has offered free tickets to all seniors in the Tahoe-Truckee community for the Sunday performance at the Resort at Squaw Creek, according to Sierra Senior service administrator Lind Whitehead.

In cooperation with the local senior agency and the choral group, the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District will provide free transportation to the Squaw Valley concert, said district Senior Coordinator Susan Duffy Smith.

Patty Gegenheimer, 55, is an accountant in the billing department of Tahoe Forest Hospital. But as a first soprano with the Community Chorus, Gegenheimer said singing gives her a chance to exercise the right side of her brain, and allow her to take a break from her computer screen.

“When I moved here 12 years ago, I would ask people to go caroling and they always said it is too cold,” said Gegenheimer, who also holds a law degree.

Participating with the choir satisfies her desire to sing Christmas carols, Gegenheimer said, while the sing-a-long portion of the Christmas shows allows everyone to experience what she feels is an integral part of the holidays.

Nelson said he organized the Truckee Community Chorus in the spring of 2002 with the support of the Sierra Mountainaires Barbershop Chorus and funding from the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. Sierra College’s Community Life Long Learning Institute and Sierra College at Truckee have continued to financially assist the choral group.

Like its funding, the class is a hybrid of a community college course and an adult learning course ” both offered through Truckee’s Sierra College.

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