From the Big Apple to Calaveras

Mountain Melody members and their VIPs pose just before the group’s performance March 17 at Carnegie Hall.

From the pastoral communities of the foothills to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, the members of the Mountain Melody Women’s Chorus of Calaveras County can now say they’ve hit the big time. The group performed March 17 at New York City’s fabled Carnegie Hall, and now the ladies bring some of that show home.

Mountain Melody was formed in 2005 to present professional quality choral music in the county, and it was asked to join with 260 choristers to sing at “Magnificat: Music in Celebration of International Women’s Day,” presented by Distinguished Concerts International New York at Carnegie Hall.

“Mountain Melody represented Calaveras County beautifully in New York City,” said Director Julia Shelby. “We added lovely singing to the combined women’s chorus, bringing finessed and blended tones. It was a fabulous experience to sing on the Carnegie Hall stage, and to reflect on the musical history that has taken place in this amazing space.”

“New York City was absolutely fantastic from beginning to end,” she said. “The subways were fun and efficient, and helped me realize I was in the Big Apple. Traffic was plentiful everywhere, and made me glad to be walking all over town instead of driving. Folks I met on the streets, or anywhere, were friendly and smiling. Roomies and I saw the Broadway show ‘Frozen,’ which was fabulous, in spite of a minor delay due to a technological hiccup with the special effects. After the delay, the cast members artfully adlibbed to include the mishap in the show, to the delight of the audience.”

Member Tari Takara said the West Coast notion of New York City’s none-too-welcoming atmosphere proved incorrect on the trip.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that New Yorkers aren’t friendly – because they are! I had the pleasure of asking so many folks there for directions, as it is easy to get lost … and everyone I asked was polite and had lots of good tips about how to get around. You also look like an easy mark for the guys trying to sell bike rentals, tours and carriage rides the minute you whip out your map and look the least bit overwhelmed!

“One of the most memorable encounters was the delightful, kind lady we met on the subway who told us all about the ‘The Vessel’ on the High Line walkway that had just opened,” Takara continued. “She got off the subway with us (it was her stop) and walked with us all the way until we could see the stairs we needed to go up to reach the High Line! Now that is New York hospitality!”

Marta Johnson said New Yorkers were welcoming, too. After a March 16 rehearsal, she went to a West Village restaurant to meet her husband and friends.

“They were seated when I arrived at Market Table Restaurant,” Johnson said. “As soon as I sat down, the host handed me a glass of champagne ‘in honor of the upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall!’ They also bought our wine with dinner! Who says New Yorkers are cold and abrupt? Besides a delicious meal, the folks at the restaurant were welcoming and gracious!”

Sue Wilmer dived into the excitement of getting to perform on such a storied stage and share the event with family.

“I will never forget just how it felt to make such beautiful music in such a magnificent venue,” she said. “Not only was this my first visit to New York, but I was able to share this inaugural trip with my husband Bill, daughters Chris and Cathy, and older sister Judy. Having them there with me made the adventure incredibly special. In addition to the concert, we saw a Broadway show, visited The Met, walked the High Line, rode the Staten Island Ferry and sampled New York cheesecake! It was a wonderful time.”

“Walks along the High Line down in Chelsea; late night dinners wherever we found ourselves; sharing Reuben sandwiches from the local deli the first evening with Mountain Melody friends; ‘My Fair Lady’ at Lincoln Center; St. Patrick’s Day night at McGee’s around the corner from the hotel with a crowd of Mountain Melody singers and friends ... I could go on and on,” Shelby said of the highlights of the adventure. “The weather was perfect, raining just a bit while we were seeing a show (very ‘Camelot’-esque). And, last but not least, is the thrill of singing in Carnegie Hall. It is an experience to be remembered, and I am thankful for the privilege of doing so.”

“Thanks to all who supported us in participating in this amazing event,” Shelby said.

The adventure came about as Shelby submitted an audition that was welcomed by concert organizers. The chorus was then invited to perform in the March 17 concert. The group started an online fundraising page that helped members make the trip.

New York Concert Review Inc. said the concert was “an extravaganza, with several hundred voices from all over the world and audience members barely able to contain their excitement, applause and cheers.”

Now back in the comforts of Calaveras, the chorus has a quartet of shows titled “New York, N.Y.” that will include some of the music performed on the East Coast in March. Performances are April 27 at a private Mountain Ranch area home; April 28 in Mokelumne Hill (where members hope a video recording of the Carnegie Hall concert will be shown after the concert); May 4 in Angels Camp; and May 5 at a Douglas Flat winery. The shows are free to attend, but Mountain Melody asks for $10 donations from concertgoers to help the group purchase new music.

For more, visit or call Shelby at 419-0028.


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