Clef Hangers seek new members; singers perform at Crane Place on Monday


By Jane Knoerle, Almanac Lifestyles Editor

Love to sing? Looking for a new interest? Consider joining the Peninsula Clef Hangers, a women's chorus of 25 to 30 volunteers who perform winter and spring concerts for senior citizens in day care centers, retirement homes and health care facilities.

The Clef Hangers have been giving choral performances since 1970, when a number of Peninsula residents and members of the Junior League of Palo Alto got together through a love of music. They adopted the name Clef Hangers in 1978.

This is the busiest time of the year for the Clef Hangers. There will be a family-friendly concert at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at Crane Place, 1331 Crane St. in Menlo Park, to which the public is invited. Cookies and drinks will follow the performance. They will also sing locally at the Menlo Circus Club for the Palo Alto Garden Club, the Menlo Park Veterans Affairs Hospital, and Rosener House.

The choral group typically gives about a dozen concerts in December and again in late spring. They rehearse for two hours each Tuesday night at Crane Place, 1331 Crane St. in Menlo Park, for 10 weeks before the holiday performances and another 10 weeks before the spring concerts. Locally they have performed at Little House, Crane Place, Rosener House and the Veterans Affairs Hospital nursing facility in Menlo Park.

"I love to sing," says Mary Riviello, one of the 13 Menlo Park and Portola Valley residents who belong to Clef Hangers. "Singing with the Clef Hangers has been very rewarding. You're creating something that people enjoy." Ms. Riviello was a member of the choir at St. Raymond Church for many years.

"It's the epitome of team sport," says Mimi Kugushev of Menlo Park, a soprano and longtime Clef Hangers member.

No auditions are required and members are not obligated to attend every performance. There is a broad range of musical ability, says co-president Carol Park, noting five or six of the women have had professional training.

Each year the chorus prepares about 26 songs and medleys, ranging from spirituals and folk songs to "oldies-but-goodies" and Broadway tunes. "We liven up many of the songs through costumes and props, for example, wearing reindeer antlers when singing about Rudolph," says Ms. Park.

A special relationship has evolved over the years between the Clef Hangers and their audiences. They look forward to the choral groups visits twice a year, says Ms. Park. At one holiday performance, a patient who had not spoken a word in months began singing along with the Christmas carols, she says. "It was truly an emotional moment ... for his wife and for us."

Director Joan Sprague says its rewarding to see residents cheered by the music and even join in the singing.

Those interested in joining the Clef Hangers, may contact Carol Park, 369-3291.

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