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Monterey Peninsula Voices is a choral group anyone can join

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Dylan Music
Singers in Monterey Peninsula Voices rehearse with sheet music.

Monterey Peninsula Voices celebrates its 60th anniversary this week. The diverse choral group of some 50 singers have just one thing in common: they are passionate about singing. In fact, except for a $195 member fee that goes to maintaining the group, a love of song is the only requirement to join. No experience is necessary.

“As long as you can match pitch, we would love to have you,” said Music Director Sean Boulware. “We have everybody from professional vocalists to professional shower singers and everything in between.”

At a Monday night rehearsal at Monterey’s First Presbyterian Church, the group prepares for a pair of concerts that honor the anniversary. Some of the singers wear masks, others don’t. Some have gray hair, others youthful ponytails. They’re holding sheet music and standing in clusters among the pews based on their singing range. Sopranos and altos are in the front of the room. Tenors and bass sections are in the back.

Alto Juliette Le is an optometrist from Spreckels. She says there are many reasons she has been a member of the group for the last six years.

“Joy, happiness, making friends and just learning a lot of new songs, '' Le said.

Board President, Chris Hasegawa, sings bass with the choir.

“I’m kind of like the tuba,” Hasegawa said.

He agrees with Le that making friends and having a sense of community are an important part of being a member of the choir.

“A number of people doing different things that together make something really beautiful is, for me, part of the American dream,” Hasegawa said.

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Dylan Music
Music Director Sean Boulware leads other singers during a Monterey Peninsula Voices rehearsal.

That sense of community and the joy of singing came to a screeching halt when the COVID outbreak began two years ago. For Sean Boulware, the music director, it was a really dark time.

“There was no music. There was no gathering. There was no community,” he said.

To keep the group together, Boulware decided to hold the rehearsals online. Virtual choirs already existed but they are an arduous process. Boulware had individual singers record themselves and then he edited them together. He says despite the difficulty, something positive did come out of the experience.

“We’ve got friends in Arizona and Oregon and Australia that joined us in the virtual choir,” he said. “So we continue to livestream our rehearsals now so that those who can’t make it can sing with us online.”

Board member and alto Julie Armstrong believes the troubled times make singing groups like Voice of the Monterey Peninsula even more important.

“There's just a lot of darkness and it’s really our obligation to lift not only ourselves up but our audiences up,” Armstrong said.

The group is looking forward to performing along with dance troupes and musicians at its upcoming concerts on May 5 at the Sunset Center in Carmel and May 7 at Sherwood Hall in Salinas.

Boulware says they are always looking for new members.

“If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with singing with a group, Monterey Peninsula Voices might be an opportunity to learn some things about singing and really experience joy that will change your life,” he said.

A life-changing experience through a community of voices.