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Whether music is the soundtrack to your life, a balm for your soul, a pleasant diversion or your reason for being, those who appreciate it share a common bond. But finding places to make music can sometimes be difficult.

That’s where Sonoma County’s many and varied hometown bands and choral groups step in. Drawing from novices and pros, they fill the county with song.

Sonoma Hometown Band

Sonoma’s best-kept secret isn’t much of a secret at all.

Tourists may be fooled, but locals know there’s truly only one Sonoma Hometown Band.

The Other Hometown Band is a bunch of musical jokesters who disguise themselves in funny hats, Hawaiian shirts, tie-dye tops and whatever adornments it takes to dupe spectators during Sonoma’s old-fashioned Fourth of July parade.

Those with a keen eye — and ear — recognize the same musicians rounding the historic town square twice.

“The word’s been out,” said Mary Wimberley, 62, president of the nonprofit band’s board of directors. “We enjoy how much attention we get, and we all love it. We feel it’s such a cool part of our town.”

The marching band was established in 1967 by Richard Schneider, the now-retired Sonoma Valley High School music director. He gathered student musicians to perform during the town’s popular Independence Day celebration. Before long, graduates and local musicians joined the fun. The Sonoma Hometown Band has been a fixture ever since.

When parade officials long ago wished for another marching band to entertain crowds along the route, the Sonoma Hometown Band obliged. After a quick change from their matching blue jeans, white shirts, straw boaters and red, white and blue sashes, members reappeared in an assortment of crazy costumes with the banner “The Other Hometown Band” to perform rousing patriotic music all over again.

“You’re exhausted, and it’s usually 90 degrees, but it’s something I’ve always been told we’ve got to do,” said Wimberley, a special education teacher who plays the flute and piccolo.

The Fourth of July tradition draws together former band members and those who have moved away for a reunion of sorts, expanding the core group of 35 to 60 or more musicians. They earn wild applause as they twice march around Sonoma’s eight-acre plaza performing John Philip Sousa medleys.

Band members come from “a huge range of backgrounds,” Wimberley said, from middle-school music students to retired professional musicians.

Schneider, the band’s founder and director emeritus, is now an octogenarian but still performs baritone. In 2007, he was named Sonoma’s honorary Treasure Artist for his musical contributions.

“He’s just he coolest person,” Wimberley said.

In 1986, the band started performing at Sonoma Valley events beyond the parade. It now offers free concerts at Christmas and springtime and for various functions around town.

The band also plays for Sonoma’s annual Memorial Day observance. Under the leadership of music director John Partridge, the band performs theme songs for various branches of the military and hallowed patriotic songs like “Duty, Honor, Country.”

The band’s performance season runs about eight months, with weekly rehearsals and an open door for new members, encouraging young musicians by offering an annual scholarship named for Schneider.

For more information, visit sonomahometownband.org.

— Dianne Reber Hart

Rohnert Park Community Chorale

The Rohnert Park Community Chorale is one of the oldest singing groups in town. It was established in 1983 under the leadership of Margot Godolphin, a former high school music teacher, and sponsored by the city.

The group started out with 23 members and has fluctuated between 16 and 30 singers over years. It now has 20 voices — including bases, tenors, altos and sopranos — along with two pianists and the director, Karen Ball.

“Right now, we have a good mix,” said assistant director Wayne Thrush, who stepped in as director for two years after Godolphin retired in 2011. “The sound can suffer if the group gets too small.”

The chorale is a mixed group from an age perspective. Both pianists currently attend Sonoma State University, and the youngest singer is 13, the son of a current member. Most other members are 50 and older.

With a large musical repertoire, from patriotic to folk, Bach, spiritual, movie songs and show tunes, the group can perform for almost any occasion. In addition to its annual holiday program, the group has performed at city Memorial Day programs, Rotary Club dinners and other local events.

Members practice weekly, perform concerts in the spring and fall that include two mini-concerts e at retirement homes. Upcoming shows are planned for 3 p.m. June 6 at the Church of the Oaks in Cotati and 3 p.m. June 13 at the Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Rohnert Park.

Thrush said he belongs to the group because “I love to sing and the sounds we can produce together as a group are really special.”

The Chorale does not hold auditions, but is always on the lookout for new voices. Interested parties can contact Wayne Thrush at 586-8321.

— Nick Walden

Kitchen Kut-Ups of Rohnert Park

For 43 years, the Kitchen Kut-Ups have taken the stage to sing, dance and make people laugh. While the cast of characters has changed over the years, their spirit has always remained young and vibrant. That’s quite an accomplishment for the over-50 crowd that comprises the variety show.

The Kut-Ups were founded in 1972 by Rohnert Park community volunteer Betty Ferra, a former vaudevillian. It was an offshoot of the Fun After Fifty club, meant to demonstrate to the community that those over 50 weren’t necessarily over the hill.

The name came about because the group initially had no money for instruments and made music with pots and pans, kazoos and whatever else was available.

From 1972 to 2001, Ferra was a one-woman powerhouse. She directed and choreographed shows, and designed costumes, props and special effects. She kept performing until 2008 when, at 90, she retired to Alaska. But she set the tone. Most of the current cast members are in their 80s.

People who have never seen a Kut-Ups show might be surprised at the quality. Many of the members have been singing, dancing or playing music for decades.

Take Sharon Griffith, 71 . Before retiring in 2008, she was on the bill with B.B. King in New York, opened with Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers and performed in Las Vegas. Each year’s program has a new theme and material, although it is always organized as a classic variety show with musical numbers, songs, dancing and skits.

Between July 11 and 18, they will perform five “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance!” shows, four at 1 p.m. matinées and one 7:30 p.m. performance, all at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Tickets are $18 at the Spreckels Box Office at 588-3400.

For more information, contact Louise Graves at 318-1297.

— Nick Walden

Clover Springs Singers

In 1999, a former neighbor joined retired school teacher Kay Wells in holding a sing-along in the lodge of their newly opened senior housing development, Clover Springs in Cloverdale. Thirty people showed up.

Some were former church choir singers. Others had little or no ability to read music. All expressed interest in forming a chorus to sing four-part choral pieces. Under Wells’ guidance, they were exposed to a little music theory and, as she puts it, learned to read notes by osmosis.

Calling themselves the Clover Springs Singers, they performed their first concert in Spring 2000. Since then, they have performed two concerts each year, one in spring and another during the holidays.

They also sing at occasions such as the annual tree-lighting ceremony in the Plaza, at local rehab facilities and, later this month, at a veterans’ dinner being jointly hosted by the Cloverdale Kiwanis and Lions Clubs.

“Most adults, seniors in particular, don’t have opportunities to sing anymore,” notes 81-year-old Wells. “That’s one of the reasons we have an audience sing-along between our performance pieces. People really look forward to them.”

The program they are now working on explores music through the ages and includes everything from fifth century Gregorian Chants to “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Java Jive” and “Over the Rainbow.”

The very nature of a “senior” choir means there have been membership changes through the years. Wells is now reaching into the community, inviting other singers from outside of Clover Springs to join them. Anyone interested can call her at 894-4813.

The chorus now has 16 members. They practice Friday mornings for two hours each week, taking a long break during the summer before starting to prepare for their holiday concert.

— Mary Jo Winter

Healdsburg Chorus

The Healdsburg Chorus has been entertaining residents for 26 years, with concerts in the spring and at Christmas. It also has brought together people from diverse backgrounds to sing, meet and even to marry.

Paula DuVander, 65, joined the Healdsburg Chorus in 2004. She met Jim DuVander, 72, who had been a member since 2000. Both had lost their spouses to illness. Both loved the chorus, and now they love each other. They married in 2006.

James Humphreys conducts the 60-member chorus that now boasts 15 men. His musical background includes years at Rincon Valley Christian as director of the choral group and bands. He also writes music.

The chorus includes members that range from teenagers to those in their seventh decade, though most are in their 50s and 60s.

The DuVanders are not the only family members who sing together. Jasmine LeClere, in her 30s, joined the chorus with her son, Devin, 15. Her preschool daughter also was part of the Christmas program.

Founder and long-time conductor Betty Zucov retired in 2013, after 25 years with the chorus. Two scholarships are being organized in her name, given to students in pursuit of a musical education.

Each season, the group performs three concerts apart from their normal venue. They appear at nursing homes, the Salvation Army at Lytton and other venues as a way to give back to the community.

While membership ebbs and flows over time, DuVander says there is “always room for everybody.” The group take a break during summer months, but she urges people to join the chorus when it starts back up the last Monday in August at the Healdsburg Community Church.

Visit healdsburgchorus.com, or call 573-7894.

— Ann Carranza

Healdsburg Community Band

Continuity seems to be the tune, with the Healdsburg Community Band performing since 1982. Lew Sbrana, well-known Healdsburg resident and retired high school music director, was the band’s first conductor and one of three founders. Larry and Judy Price were his co-founders.

The band’s 35 members range from high school students to musicians in their 70s, from retirees and working class people to executives. Band members come from as far as Cloverdale and Windsor, with one driving in from Little River .

Randy Masselink has been with the band for 18 years, as a band member and occasional conductor before taking over as conductor two years ago. Masselink, like Sbrana before him, is the Healdsburg High School band director.

Doug Pile , first chair clarinet, has been a musician with the band since the beginning and stayed even while he practiced primary care physician. He is now retired and is joined on the band by his son, Nate, who once played in the Healdsburg High band.

Publicity director Andre Bertauche, 70, admits to a 50-year hiatus from music before joining three years ago at the urging of his 13-year-old grandson . Bertauche is now third-chair clarinet.

“People come to our band because we play the best,” he said.

The Healdsburg Community Band plays its final concert of the season at 4 p.m. June 7, in the Healdsburg Plaza. It’s free and open to the public.

For more information about the band, call Bertauche at 433-7374 or visit healdsburgcommunityband.org.

— Ann Carranza

The CinnaGals, Petaluma

The CinnaGals is a new all-ages women’s chorus based out of Cinnabar Theater that started up in February.

“We’ve had a women’s chorus before, and we handed it back to the person who did it before,” said choral and artistic director Elly Lichenstein. “She wasn’t able to do it this year, so we asked ‘can we do it?’ ”

The CinnaGals repertoire is advertised as “spanning 500 years of Italian madrigals, English folk songs, and American ballads.” The group also chooses songs to match the season, Lichenstein said.

“During the spring, the chorus sings a lot of songs about spring and renewal. The conductors of each chorus make the selections themselves. It’s personalized. It’s tailored to the chorus.”

The women’s chorus is unique in that members are largely responsible for their existence.

“They instigated it,” Lichenstein said. “The conductor is part of them. There is this real camaraderie, they love being together, and they’re very welcoming of new people.”

The chorus currently has members ages 30 to 70, but welcomes singers as young as 16. “The only requisite is that you have to want to sing,” Lichenstein said.

The CinnaGals are on hiatus until later in the summer, but during the season they perform at the Petaluma Arts Center and practice Wednesday evenings in a member’s home.

Tuition to join is $80, but no one is turned away for lack of funds. For more info , call 763-8920.

— Devin Marshall

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