Updated: Dec 3, 2021
“Crisp! This needs to be crisp! Take it again from the top.”
With just days to go before Opening Night of “We Wish You The Merriest,” Pine Cone Performers’ musical director Dennis Brown is at his most intense and rehearsals get grueling. But that’s when all the hours of Zoom training, section rehearsals, and singing in the shower, while driving to town, and during most waking and sleeping moments really pay off. That’s when beautiful music becomes magical.
For more than forty years, the Pine Cone Performers have been making music and entertaining audiences in Tuolumne County. It started in 1979 when a group of friends met in Pine Mountain Lake to form a book club with a focus on dramatic reading. Soon, other social groups began requesting entertainment for various events and the Pine Cone Performers were born. The group expanded their dramatic offerings to include skits, one-act plays and short melodramas, eventually adding musical performances.
Some of the more memorable dramatic performances include Nancy Robichaud’s “Love Potion #1,” written by member Dave Holcomb, RuthAnn Peirona’s hysterical comedies “Al’s Place,” “Groveland’s Got Talent,” and “The Martins.” Jim Soderberg’s original “As The Stomach Turns” was an over-the-top melodrama with a musical talent show thrown in for good measure.
Over the years, the group has had a number of talented musicians and choral directors, but few compare with Dennis Brown who joined the group in 2004. An accomplished pianist, singer, actor, and musical director, Dennis has been in numerous dramatic and musical productions at local repertory theaters (Stage 3, Sierra Repertory Theater, and Merced Playhouse.) In 2013, Dennis took a two-year hiatus and rejoined the group in 2015. Concert pianist Jason Jeffrey has traveled from Stockton for years to accompany the Pine Cone Performers’ winter and spring concerts. Jason is perfectly paired with Amy Mannon on percussion, and other local musicians depending on the concert program.
Under Dennis Brown’s expert direction, the Pine Cone Performers have developed a broad repertoire ranging from classical choral to upbeat jazz to downright fun, at times performing with the HillTop Musical Kids and puppets, much to the delight of their audiences.