I first joined BCCO in 1978. Before that, the only singing I had done was around a campfire at Girl Scout Camp as a pre-teen. I don’t know where I got the idea, let alone the courage, to join BCCO. But for this novice singer, singing with BCCO under Eugene Jones’ leadership was a truly revelatory experience. I discovered that to be part of a chorus of voices singing great choral works is one of the most exhilarating and uplifting experiences of my life — instead of just listening to the music as an outside observer, you get inside the music, and what a difference that makes!
Back then BCCO was a class in the Berkeley Adult School, and we rehearsed twice a week in various school district rooms, including at Berkeley High, Berkeley Adult School, and the old Jefferson School auditorium (now Crowden School). We lost our school district funding due to budget cuts after Prop. 13 passed, then managed to get sponsored by Vista College (now called Berkeley City College). I remember a conversation with Eugene in the early 1980s, in which he was lamenting about problems he was having with the college district, and his concern that BCCO would not survive if it lost that affiliation. Eugene was very worried and depressed about the situation. I am so happy and grateful that BCCO has continued to flourish long after becoming an independent organization!
Some of my favorite memories from those years are from the annual retreat at Asilomar. As part of the school or college district, we got taken to Asilomar in school busses. That was always fun, with lots of singing en route. And the joy of spending the weekend singing surrounded by the unsurpassed beauty of Asilomar was always inspiring and energizing.
After several wonderful years singing with BCCO, the demands of family and career forced me, with great misgivings, to leave the chorus. But I always knew I’d return as soon as I was able to. During my time away from the chorus, the years singing with BCCO under Eugene Jones remained one of the highlights of my life, a memory with a glow about it that I yearned to get back to. I returned to sing for a few seasons under Arlene Sagan, and then — what serendipity — the beginning of Ming Luke’s directorship just happened to coincide with my retirement, and it has been a joy to be back in the chorus for keeps, learning new works, returning to beloved old ones, and once again experiencing the music from the inside, which is the very best way.