Bravo to the LagunaTunes for their Sunday afternoon concert “Making Spirits Bright” on Dec. 9 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. The LagunaTunes 50-member choirs performed with their new director of the larger chorus, Bob Gunn, along with returning conductor, Cristin Cornell, directing the Chamber Music Ensemble. It was a glorious afternoon of outstanding choral music.
The audience of 250 people filled the sanctuary long before the concert started, necessitating Rector Rechter asking for more chairs to be brought in to fill the aisles and the front and back of the auditorium. Patti Jo Kiraly, the president of the LagunaTunes, introduced new director Gunn to Cornell, the retiring director of the chorus who was in the audience.
Highly beloved by the singers as well as the audience, Roxanna Ward received deafening applause.
The Chamber Ensemble sang nine songs, familiar carols and new renditions of old ones. The performance was flawless. Captivating the audience was a soprano soloist, Sarah Geocaris, singing “O Holy Night” with a beautiful soaring soprano voice in the first and second verses. The audience rose to its feet at its conclusion. Deborah Glass was their highly skilled longtime accompanist.
Then the LagunaTunes Chorus continued the performance singing many familiar Christmas songs and carols. They began the second half with “It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas.” They also performed “Fruitcake,” “Dig That Crazy Santa Claus,” and a very interesting new number “Et In Terra Pax” along with “Ave Maria” adding classical numbers to their repertoire. As with the Chamber Music Singers, the LagunaTunes Chorus numbers were flawlessly executed. Many people in the audience remarked on the joy the singers expressed, smiling throughout and some even gracefully moving to the music. Soloists for the LagunaTunes Chorus in different songs were Cathy Itnyre, Carla Bruce, Karen McBride, Randy Hatfield, Jacoby Hickerson, Kimberly Clark, Frankie Harrigan, Gary Greene and Rob Harryman.
The concert concluded with Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” for which Bob Gunn invited the audience to sing along with the choirs if they so chose. Many did and it added to the joyous spirit and indeed made many spirits bright for the Christmas season. I was reminded that when I was a little girl of 4 years old, and for many years thereafter, my aunt always took me at Christmas time to Philadelphia, Penn., to hear my mother and father sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” with the Bach Chorale directed by the renowned choral director Dr. James Dash. Seventy some years dashed away as I listened to “Hallelujah, Hallelujah” once more, everyone in the audience and I were once again inspired and at peace. The concert was wonderful.
Carol Reynolds, Laguna Beach