Ah springtime. A shining sun coaxes us outdoors and our minds turn from winter’s hibernation to being outside and shaking off the cobwebs. I’ve loved the lush green of the foothills this year, and now some singers are ready to further entice you to appreciating the season of rebirth and rejuvenation.
‘‘Colors of Spring” is the entirely apropos title of this year’s concerts performed by the Mountain Melody Women’s Chorus of Calaveras, a thoroughly entertaining troupe of songstresses who like to have fun as much as they love to sing. Usually the ladies and I meet at the Calaveras High School band room, where the women rehearse, but for this spring’s shows, we met at Turner Park in San Andreas. Laughter, as usual, ensued.
The group expertly sings songs that run the gamut from soothing spirituals to rousing Broadway numbers and everything in between. Under director Julia Shelby’s capable guidance, the women also sing songs from around the world.
The concerts commence on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Ayrael Vieux Winery in Douglas Flat, followed by another performance at 4 p.m. Sunday at the La Contenta Golf Club outside Valley Springs. A third performance has been slated for 4 p.m. May 13 at the Union Congregational Church in Angels Camp.
The concerts include several tunes sung in Spanish, like “De Colores” and “Duermete Nino.” A delightful a cappella tune called “Chili Con Carne” adds all kinds of rhythm and percussion sounds to the melodic lines amid a spicy Latin flavor. Jazzier offerings are the classic “Where or When” and the melodic favorite “Long Ago and Far Away.”
“In general, the songs are about the beauty of nature, in many forms,” Julia told me. “A fun and exciting (and challenging) song conjures up a lightning storm (called ‘Lightning!’). ‘Watercolor Morning’ is a lovely song with beautiful imagery of color as the season changes from winter to spring, based on memories from another time; although we do have changes in the seasons, I imagine this is from a person’s recollections of a place where winter is harsh and spring is truly a reawakening (‘All that is left are the memories of a cold and bitter night that blossomed into a watercolor morning’).”
“Another song I love is ‘Beauty of the Night.’ The imagery is sweet; imagination is in play. Again, color is used throughout, in country scenes, nature accents ‘and on harps of leafless trees the wind plays its mournful melodies wand’ring through the shadows, and all is hushed.’”
Ever one to dive into how the imagery of lyrics affects how songs are sung, Julia went on to recall more from “Beauty of the Night.” “Silver threads from the bright moon afar from the blue glimmers a great gold star above the forest, where in cool glens of fir beckoning boughs and elfin voices stir ...”
“This last image reminds me of the times my niece, Sally, would visit our lovely Mountain Ranch home,” Julia said. “When she was a little girl, she and I would walk around our yard that was filled with trees and flowers and she would show me where the fairies lived; she would stop and listen and could hear them! When showing me the fairy life in our yard, Sally showed me a whole new world; such a gift. And music can do the same.”
“That is one of our tasks,” she added, “to bring the music alive, giving emotion to the imagery.”
“Moving on, we are singing ‘De Colores,’ a Mexican folk song,” Julia enthused. “It has many verses, but the three I chose have to do with loving nature, farms, country animals and the last verse, which has to with people of all colors, laughing, smiling, extending their hands to each other, from people who know freedom. I, personally, feel we need this concept in our lives, especially now.”
And we haven’t even covered the majority of the programs.
As we cavorted around the park looking for cute places to take photos, the women shared laughs about looking their best in such a lively and lovely locale. Smiles come easily when you’re around Mountain Melody.
There are no tickets for the trio of shows, so arrive early to assure you get a seat. Instead of tickets, donations of $10 each are encouraged so that Julia can continue to purchase all of the wonderful music the ladies perform, but feel free to give more. The group also has T-shirts and mugs (I hear Mel Brooks’ Yogurt in the background, “Moichandizing, moichandizing, moichandizing!”). Check out mountainmelody.org for more.
While you’ve got the calendar open and are marking your “Colors of Spring” date, check off June 10, too. That’s the Saturday that the Party will be held outside Angels Camp.
“Frustrated revelers who missed the fun because the Party sold out last year, your time has come,” says a release from the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program, the beneficiary of the wonderful event that supports the program.
The Party happens at the beautiful home of Tad and Jane Bottomley-Winans, who serve as hosts for the event. Their gorgeous Dove Hill Ranch home just outside Angels Camp is itself worth the admission price to get to see.
“The mentoring program is very important in our county, and this will be their main fundraising event this fiscal year. We hope everyone will come out, have fun and give generously,” said Tad Winans.
The festivities include a steak-in-a-barrel and pasta dinner and dancing to tunes of Bay Area dance band the Groove Doctors, the same band that got everyone rocking the dancefloor in 2016. “There will be a huge silent auction, and possibly an exciting live auction item as well,” a release boasts.
New this year is a Treasure Chest prize offered by Outdoor Adventure River Specialists (O.A.R.S.), a longtime supporter of the mentoring program. An eight-day Highlands to Islands rafting adventure to the Fijian islands is offered for two people with a $2,500 travel allowance, making its value $8,300. Keys are $100 each and only 125 are sold. This adventure was tabbed as one of National Geographic Traveler’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime, and features Class II and III whitewater rafting down two hidden Fijian rivers surrounded by narrow canyon walls with thundering waterfalls, soaring over the rainforest on a zip-line canopy tour, sea kayaking in Bega Lagoon and snorkeling in kaleidoscopic reefs.
The Calaveras Mentoring Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for youth mentoring in the county. The Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program connects local youths with safe, positive mentors who offer friendship, opportunities and support for making healthy life decisions.
Tickets are available now for the Party. They are priced at $75 each until May 15 and are $100 after that date at CalaverasMentoringFoundation.org or call 736-7706. For sponsorship information, call Donna R. Shannon 754-4997.
I’m all for going out to the garden to hear Mountain Melody serenade us into spring and to step onto the Dove Hill Ranch patio to peruse silent auction items to support kids who appreciate a boost. It’s a fine time to sing.
Send word of your Calaveras County event to firstname.lastname@example.org.