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.
Their winter concert, “We Wish You The Merriest” is a celebration in itself - the group’s first official concert for two years. The program will feature pieces that are melodic, mostly uncomplicated, and relatively brief; a little bit of jazz and some humor, too.
“We are so excited to sing to our wonderful community again and to spread some much- needed Holiday Cheer,” said Monica Herendeen, president. “We hope you enjoy our winter concert."
“We Wish You The Merriest” will be presented at 7 pm on Friday, December 10, and 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday, December 11 and 12, 2021 at the Groveland Evangelical Free Church on Ferretti Road. Tickets are available from Premier Valley Bank, Body Beautiful Salon and Spa, or from any Pine Cone performer. Donations are $10 in advance, $15 at the door; children 13 and under are welcome for free.
To best protect the audience, singers, and the community at large, the Pine Cone Performers will require proof of full vaccination for all attendees on entrance to the venue. Masks must be worn by the audience inside the venue at all times. This is the same protocol that is in force at performing-arts venues in Sonora, Modesto, and the Bay Area. All members of the chorus are vaccinated, have been practicing in masks, and will be performing in masks.
How wonderful can they sound wearing masks? Just listen to this clip from Tuesday's rehearsal!