February 2012 home page


Sing a Song!
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street


Linda Chisari.  Photo Nancy Fisher


In 2003, when Del Mar Community Connections put out the word that they needed a pianist to accompany their newly-formed sing-along group, they hit the jackpot. Linda Chisari, who’d been playing since her parents gave her a toy piano at the age of three responded, and the rest is sing-along history. “We were in like Flynn,” says Charlotte Gumbrell who, as chair of the Recreation Committee, was asked to start the group.

The family legend, says Linda, is that she received the toy piano as a Christmas gift and by evening was picking out the notes to Jingle Bells with everyone singing along. She started piano lessons at age four and, after taking an improvisation class in high school, began playing by ear.

Left to right. Linda Chisari, Charlotte Gumbrell, Richard Anderson, Rita Meier, Greet Hostetler, Cheryl Alden, Regina Horner.
Photo courtesy DMCC

“Linda, at the piano, has to be seen to be believed,” says Cheryl Alden, one of the group’s original members. “Her phenomenal musical ability astounds us all as she easily plays a melody first in one key and then, effortlessly, changes to another key when she senses it’s better for our group. And she does this all by ear – without written music.”

Most of the songs the group sings are from the Great American Songbook, the classic standards and show tunes written by the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Cole Porter, to name a few, but it’s not uncommon for them to throw in a Beatles or a Pete Seeger tune. “My favorite is ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’,” says Karen Lockwood. “Of course now I go to bed too early to accomplish that, but the dream is still there.”

Joanne Sharp, who used to sing with the San Elijo Chorus at Mira Costa College, finds the group to be a “wonderful way to keep up with my lifelong love of music and singing,” and Greet Hostetler, who is from the Netherlands, enjoys learning songs that are new to her. “I did not grow up with Broadway music and we do a lot of songs from musicals. Fun, fun!”

Linda loves that group singing draws people together and brings out common memories, a sentiment shared by Pete Seeger himself in a 2008 New York Times article. “No one can prove a damn thing,” Mr. Seeger said, “but I think that singing together gives people some kind of a holy feeling. And it can happen whether they’re atheists, or whoever. You feel like ‘Gee, we’re all together.’”

DMCC’s Program Director, Heather Glenn, who also believes in the therapeutic value of group singing, shared the story of physician Sam Winner, who suffered from memory loss before passing away two years ago. “Although he couldn’t read the words on the song sheets, he would hum along with the group and it was a real joy for him. Singing apparently taps into some part of the brain that makes a connection even after memory loss.”

The next monthly sing-along will take place on February 16th, from 3-4:30 pm, at the Chisari home at 1010 Crest Road in Del Mar. New members are warmly embraced by all, and songbooks, containing the lyrics to roughly 250 songs, are provided. "Everyone who loves to sing is welcome, whether or not you think of yourself as having talent,” says founding member Charlotte Gumbrell. “We start with ‘Sing a Song,’ which emphasizes that.”

Don't worry that it's not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song!

-- From “Sing” written by Joe Raposo for Sesame Street and popularized by the Carpenters

For more information, contact Heather Glenn at 858-792-7565 or email her at dmcc@dmcc.cc.




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