Arts and Entertainment

Stories behind the song; back-to-back performances by SJ Singers this weekend

For 33 years now, once or twice a week, somewhere on San Juan Island, the San Juan Singers choir rehearsal begins.  - Contributed photo
For 33 years now, once or twice a week, somewhere on San Juan Island, the San Juan Singers choir rehearsal begins.
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Jan Bollwinkle-Smith

Special to the Journal

When San Juan Singers presents its holiday concert at San Juan Community Theatre Dec. 14 and 15, there will be many stories behind the voices.

“In my younger days, singing in a choir kept me off the streets and out of the gutters,” said longtime islander David Bentley. “Now that I think of it, I guess it still does. You can’t beat that healthy high you feel after every rehearsal.”

And then there’s this from Steffi Wehner:  “After years of being a caregiver, suddenly it was over. I found myself in deep grief, with a lot of time on my hands. I haven’t read music in 20 years, my voice is rusty, English is not my mother tongue. I was intimidated at the first rehearsal to say the least. Then we sang, all sections harmonizing and it brought tears to my eyes. I chimed in heartily and felt at home.”

For 33 years now, once or twice a week, somewhere on San Juan Island, dozens of folks begin drifting into a room by twos and threes; chairs come off a rack or off a stack, conversations move back and forth across the room, and the San Juan Singers choir rehearsal begins.

San Juan SingersDirector Angel Michaels notes that it’s all done, “voluntarily, cheerfully and often joyfully.”  Michaels says that “while each singer reaps personal fulfillment from this weekly practice, at the heart of the matter, it’s about the community.”

The choir’s Sally Todd enjoys the camaraderie of the group.

“Beyond providing an opportunity to exercise my love of singing, being a member of San Juan Singers provides a rare experience of true group collaboration,” Todd said.  “Each singer’s goal is to work for the good of the whole; and the whole truly is better than the sum of the parts. Rarely in life do you find a conflict-free group where everyone is not only on the same page, but more importantly, is on the same measure.”

And while much of the community chorus’s music-making takes place in rehearsals, they do have several opportunities to share what they’ve built with others.

In addition to their December concerts (see adjacent box), the Singers also perform at the Community Theatre each spring, have shared the stage with groups such as the Friday Harbor  High School Band, and recently joined composer Morten Lauridsen during the Friday Harbor Film Festival.

Michaels says there is always room for more in their singing family. For more information, contact Michaels at 298-1829.


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