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Apr 16th
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Record attendance for CLPA Christmas show

LAKEPORT – The largest audience in the 31-year history of Clear Lake Performing Arts crowded into the Marge Alakszay Center of Clear Lake High School in Lakeport on Dec. 20 to see and hear a stunning performance by the Lake County Symphony, with a stellar cast of supporters.

Music director and conductor John Parkinson had his orchestra fine tuned for an extravagant presentation of Christmas favorites, both secular and religious, and its members delivered.

As an example Kelseyville keyboardist Tom Ganoung took the lead on "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and played the riffs laid down originally by Vince Guaraldi, to perfection.

"I practiced this for 40 hours to make sure I got it right," he later confessed. And get it right he did.

Earlier the nearly three-score members of the symphony had presented a medley of popular holiday tunes ending with all seven themes from the "Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky, followed by a series of holiday favorites ending with Victor Herbert's timeless "March of the Toys" from "Babes in Toyland."

A tradition at CLPA concerts is an intermission snack of homemade cookies served by members of the group's auxiliary, but in this instance the size of the audience nearly overwhelmed the service. However, most attendees were able to get fortified and back into their seats in time to enjoy a medley by Laura Smith on fiddle and her younger brother Darin on cello, who proved to be audience favorites.

Then more than a dozen gifted young musicians making up the CLPA Youth Orchestra, directed by Wes Follett, played another holiday medley, followed by a set arranged specifically for the orchestra by conductor Parkinson.

Paula Samonte, a jazz solist from Ukiah who has become a hallmark with the symphony's Christmas concert, was back after missing a year while in Rome on a singing sabbatical, and won applause with her four number set, after which the members of the orchestra donned red Santa hats for another four-number medley, except for Parkinson whose Christmas hat was, appropriately, royal purple.

Individual musicians recognized by Parkinson and the audience included flutist Catherine Hall, Clarinetist Matt Rothstein and trombonist Cory Cunningham, although most listeners would probably award ribbons to all 57 members of the orchestra.

Carl Stewart, a Lake County school administrator and Kelseyville resident, led a sing along, and then – following the orchestra's adaptation of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," complete with clopping hoofbeats, whipcracks and a final whinny – joined a group of talented vocalists in leading the audience in singing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."

They included Gail Dyne, who usually sings with the Sweet Adelines; Carol Cole Lewis, a member of Eareverance; Sue Condit; Bill Bordisso; and Clovice Lewis. Stewart sings with the group "Blue Collar." The audience rose to their feet to join in singing the Christmas classic.

At the concert's conclusion the audience appeared reluctant to let the musicians go home. Protracted applause drew conductor Parkinson back for a curtain call. and eventually he was permitted to leave. Vocalist Samonte had earlier saluted Lake County music lovers for keeping its symphony going.

"Across the country orchestras like this are failing," she noted "So I give thanks to all of you here today for keeping this wonderful music alive in Lake County."

Clear Lake Performing Arts is the sole sponsor of the Lake County Symphony, as well as the CLPA Youth Orchestra, and several other local music support activities.

Paul Brewer, president of CLPA said that more than 400 people attended the concert generating the largest gross of any show ever presented by his group.


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