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  • Miners Foundry helps them find their voice

    Community sing event looking for its next pop-up choir

    Tom Durkin

    Nevada City Advocate

    On the evening of Jan. 24 about 150 mostly strangers gathered in Miner’s Foundry Stone Hall to sing Crosby, Stills & Nash’s iconic song “Teach Your Children.”

    After a few rehearsals and four recording takes later, the choir of mostly amateurs celebrated a clean take of the song in impressive three-part harmony. 

    “It took us less than two hours to put it together,” said Rod Baggett, grinning like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Baggett directed the “pop-up” choir.

    “We didn’t know what to expect,” admitted Pamela Meek, board member of Miner’s Foundry, but, “It still exceeded our expectations.”

    The first Foundry Sings was so successful that three more are planned for this year, Meek said. The next community sing is set for Wednesday April 11.

    And the next song is?

    “It’s a semi-secret,” Baggett grinned. Then he admitted, “I have to figure out what it is.”

    Meek said it hasn’t been decided yet whether to announce the song in advance or let it be a surprise to people.

    No experience required

    “You don’t even have to be able to read music,” said Meek. “This is perfect for people who like to sing in the shower.”

    “Everybody sings,” affirmed Baggett, the longtime choral director for Nevada Union High School and member of the Sierra Capella choir.

    The only “audition” is “Can you hit this note?” Meek explained. She said this is how Baggett breaks the choir into “low, middle and high” groups for the three-part harmony.

    Baggett noted that he and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Meredith collaborated on the arrangement.

    During the event, everyone was, literally, on the same page. The singers all got the same lyric sheet with the three parts clearly marked.

    “I rehearsed each group for about 10 minutes,” he said. 

    Then he blended the groups, complete with the soul-stirring counter melody. It’s obvious from the celebration on the YouTube video that they knew it when they nailed it.

    The group rehearsals and four complete takes gave videographer/editor Janapriyan Levine the opportunity to get enough footage to create the masterful illusion of a multi-camera shoot with his single camera.

    The multiple takes “ allowed me to get close ups and move through the crowd,” Levine said. “I look forward to watching this evolve.”

    A dream comes true

    “We only sold about 30 tickets in advance,” Meek recalled, but on the night of the event, “they just started streaming in!”

    The Foundry asks for a $10 donation to participate, so advance tickets weren’t really necessary – but that may change in the future. The maximum capacity of the acoustically ideal Stone Hall is 300.

    Both Baggett and Meek said they expect more people to attend the April 11 community sing.

    As they we’re leaving, “people kept telling us, ‘Thank you for doing this!’” Meek said.

    Although The Foundry Sings is a collaborative effort – including fellow board members Paul Matson, Mark Warner, Gladys “Glady” Birdsong and Cameron – the idea has long been a dream of Meek’s.

    “For years, the idea of an old-fashioned gathering of people a la Mitch Miller has percolated in the margins of my mind,” she wrote Jan. 10 in her initial invitation to the first Foundry Sings event. 

    “After joining the Miners Foundry Board of Trustees, I pushed for a fundraiser of the singalong kind. You could say it became my mission. Nothing fancy, no auditioning, no need to be able to read music,” she wrote.

    Having established that The Foundry Sings promises to be a reliable fundraiser, Meek said the proceeds (after expenses) will be devoted to overdue deferred maintenance of the Foundry.

    However, in addition to the benefit to the Foundry, both Meek and Baggett emphasized the sense of community the event builds.

    “It’s not a big deal to come alone,” Meek said, because “instantly you belong to a group.”

    Baggett said he hopes more men and young people will join in the next Foundry Sings.

    “It’s fun,” he grinned.

    The April 11 community sing starts at 5:30 p.m. with a social time where people can get to know each other, as well as buy food and drink at the no-host bar. The singing begins at 6:00 p.m.

    Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada County. Contact him at tdurkin@vfr.net or www.tomdurkin-writer.net.


    Take a look and listen

    A video of The Foundry Sings can be found at youtube.com/watch?v=3ROhY3VpnPg. For more information on the event, call 530-265-5040 or visit minersfoundry.org

    About the photo:   

    Everybody was on the same page at the initial The Foundry Sings in January. Submitted Photo