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Former Opera Singer Heads Up Santee Community Chorus

The newly formed local choir is seeking more volunteer members to sing and represent Santee.

A new gig is in town. The formed just a little over a month ago and has twenty-some members that show up on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. on the dot.

They greet each her in the sanctuary of the Santee , take a seat in the first three rows and review their music to sing before Elizabeth Kimery walks in. She has them do some breathing exercises and run the scales up and down a few times before beginning the evening’s practice. The songs range from “Climb Every Mountain” to “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Santee resident Kimery helped get the chorus started. She has years of education in music, from the Julliard School of Music to a BA from SDSU and MA from USC. She hits the top note, though, in her practical experience as an opera singer in Germany for twelve years.

After subsequent years of experience in forming children’s musical programs, developing an opera program at and conducting choirs since 1971, Kimery had her own dream to reach for. 

She has wanted to form a chorus of her own for quite some time. It was her friendship with Anne and Jan Ault at the Santee UMC that helped bring Kimery’s dream to a reality.

Before the Santee Community Chorus met for the first time in May, she had worked at the Santee United Methodist Church as Music Director for seven years, keeping in touch with the Aults after leaving for another position.

“One day Anne called me to come look at a TV program on the BBC channel about forming a choir in small towns. This gave us some guidelines and we decided to see if it would work in Santee,” Kimery said.

They set a date to start, made fliers and distributed them in various places and contacted all the churches in Santee. They went to various churches during their choir rehearsals to make the announcement and invite all interested.

It worked. The goals of the volunteer-based chorus are to sing at various functions representing Santee. The members have already sung twice in public, first at the walk on May 14 and are performing June 18 at 4 p.m. on the Trolley Square Amphitheatre Stage.

“This chorus is completely volunteer and I ask the members to inform me when they will have to be gone,” Kimery said. The members are at rehearsal because they want to sing, and this was evident on May 14 when all but one member showed up to sing.”

Jack Appel, whose occupation is engineering, is one of those faithful volunteers.

 “Being in the Santee Community Chorus gives me a chance to sing in the community I live in, and this is important when there are few opportunities in East County. I also enjoy getting to practice singing with fellow musicians who love what they do, who love music,” he said.

Another member, Susan Griffith, who joined the chorus with some friends in her neighborhood, is thrilled to be singing four-part harmony for SCC.

 Griffith had not sung in a choir since high school, in the 70s.

“I am a bit rusty at reading music, but it wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be,” she said. “I love the song choices, great melodies and wonderful variety. Elizabeth taught me the proper way to sing so I won't damage my vocal chords.”

The music they all sing is secular, ranging from Disney to Mozart, what Kimery calls “simple but beautiful arrangements.” The chorus is also working on some pieces that are a little jazzy as well.

“I am so fortunate to have Anne Ault to help me with all the publicity and finding events the chorus to perform,” Kimery said. “I am also very fortunate to have Jan Ault as our accompanist.

“He is not only a wonderful pianist but also a composer and arranger. At the moment Anne, Jan and I are doing this for the love of music, but we hope in the future to be able to find sponsors to help with expenses.”

“We would like to see it grow to one hundred voices and participate in performances with an orchestra and other choirs in San Diego,” Kimery said.

Currently, there are several high school members and the oldest member is 70-something.

Choir member Pattie Difiglia, 51, appreciates the diversity of songs.

“What perked my interest in the chorus was the variety of music that we do. Along with that comes the challenge of learning songs that I may have never tried before,” said Difiglia, an El Cajon resident.

 “Many people like to sing but would never sing by themselves. The chorus gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride,” Kimery said.

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