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Raise Your Voice With Community Choir

NORTH FORK – If you have ever sung in a choir or have ever wanted to, now is the time. The renowned North Fork Community Choir is warming up for winter and they want you to join.

“One of the things that’s awesome about this choir is that you don’t even have to audition,” says choir conductor Gina Clugston. “It’s a commitment of about two hours a week and I tell people there are 168 hours in a week; you can afford to spend two of them doing something really uplifting.”

The Choir starts weekly rehearsals on Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. They practice and ultimately perform in a winter holiday extravaganza at North Fork School’s Kennedy Hall.

The North Fork Community Choir was started by Gina Clugston with a handful of friends in 2000; this marks their 14th season as the group begins preparing for their annual concert, “Songs of the Season.”

The performance is held every year on the first Saturday of December at North Fork school in Kennedy Hall. This year the show is on Dec. 7, and will feature performances by choirs from around the mountain area, which has historically included Minarets, Sierra and Yosemite High Schools, in addition to the North Fork bunch.

Gina says the concert is truly a joy to behold, and an even greater pleasure in which to participate.

“To get together with other people and sing seasonal and Christmas music is really cathartic and inspirational,” she promises. “Making beautiful music with other people… well people just love doing it.”

Some may know Gina as the owner, publisher and editor of Sierra News Online, the local news source start-up that has grown in just over a year to include more than 3,400 readers every day.

Others may recognize her as a long-standing, guitar-toting member of Sugar Pine, the group that has played for Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad on Wednesday and Saturday nights for Moonlight Special dinner train for over 31 years, or the current president of Squirrel Cage Theatre Co.

Gina has been ensconced in music since she was just a kid, knee-high to a bass fiddle.

“I started playing the piano when I was 5 years old,” recounts the woman of many hats. “I was a music major in college and I’ve sung in groups and played in orchestras and bands all my life.”

You need not be from North Fork to join this choir. Lovers of song come from all over to sing in the North Fork Community Choir; nearly a hundred have raised their voices in common at various times over the years, and come from as far away as Bootjack and Fresno.

“The only requirement to participate is that you show up for rehearsals every Wednesday,” says the conductor. When members do show up regularly for practice, the results are phenomenal.

“Every year, this choir astonishes people,” she says with a combination of confidence and experience. “These people are amazing. They bond as a group and they work together. It’s the definition of synergy: this is so much bigger than the sum of its parts.”

What if your only performance experience involves a hairbrush “microphone” in the shower, or you think you sound great but only in your car? Gina says – no problem. Many in the choir don’t even read music. Nothing stops them from singing beautifully together and having a great time every step of the way.

“There are a lot of members who’ve said they can’t join a choir, or worry they’re not good enough,” Gina explains. “Then they come to choir and they get the support of those on either side of them and they cannot believe how good they sound.”

She does have this single caveat lest confidence alone carries one too far: “You do have to be able to carry a tune.”

The cost for an entire season of choir singing is about $12 – $15, for the music and a practice CD that members can use to learn their music and practice whether in their car or home, or the aforementioned shower.

“People come because they like the way we rehearse, the way they sound at the show, and they like the camaraderie,” says Gina of the friendly group, adding that one can’t underestimate the value of song.

“Choir and choir practice is a way to get yourself out of your day-to-day,” potentially a grind the busy North Fork resident knows something about. “You’ve had a bad day at work and you think, ‘I just want to go home,’ and then you come to rehearsal and once you leave, it has changed your whole outlook on life.”

Despite the hectic nature of life and ever-changing schedules and endless commitments, Gina is convinced – and wants to convince others – there’s always room for music.

“I really want to inspire people to show up,” she says, stressing that no one ever has to sing alone since that tends to “scare people.”

The North Fork Community Choir often surprises people, according to its director.

“People say, ‘I cannot believe it! I came to this concert expecting, well, not much, and then that choir started to sing and I cannot believe the sound created by these people!’ They do not expect North Fork to have such an awesome choir.”

But North Fork does have an “awesome” choir, thanks to its eclectic and far-flung members, and its founder who continues to invite the greater community to come out and sing along in the geographic center of California.

“This is a very involved and creative artistic community. When you look into it you will see amazing things in North Fork.”

For more information contact or give Gina a call at work: 559-877-3333.

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Sierra News Online

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