…”Heartstrings”…. Story by Michaele Benedict

When Raney teared up at news of the generous gift, one irreverent orchestra member called out “It’s a one-way ticket, Kay.â€?….Michaele Benedict***


Story by Michaele Benedict

ragtimers-19852_2.jpg (Photo: Pacific Coast Ragtimers at Harmony, California
in 1985. Front row, from left: Ian Whitcomb, Sara Lomax, Claudine Schwarz-Minton, Skip Tenney, Noni Naughton, Michaele Benedict, Dick Zimmerman. Back row, from left, Mike Hart, Lloyd Connors, Jim Rogers, Jim
Tillotson, an unidentified violinist, Joe DeFelice, Jack Gerkin and Nonda Trimis. Lomax, Benedict, and Hart still play with the Coastside Community Orchestra. Hart still plays with the Ragtimers.)

The Coastside Community Orchestra (CCO), founded in Spring 1983 with only a violinist, flute player and a pianist, is celebrating its 25th anniversary, as a smaller group formed earlier with some of the same players turns 28.

On Saturday, Feb. 2, flautist Sara Lomax of Moss Beach, one of the founding members of the Coastside orchestra, will perform the Mozart flute concerto in D. Several other members of the original orchestra will also be playing.

The official 25th anniversary concert is planned for Saturday, May 3.

In its 25 years, the orchestra has presented at least three concerts a year, as well as special children’s concerts, awarded countless scholarships to young music students, and has included at various times an estimated 300 players, from age twelve to eighty-plus, and ranging in ability from novice to professional.

In at least three instances, orchestra members have married each other, and there are several orchestra babies. The original group has grown from about a dozen members to nearly fifty.

In a way, Ragtime may have had something to do with the early meetings of the Coastside Community Orchestra. In 1980, a group of Coastside music teachers met, calling themselves the Pacific Coast Ragtime Orchestra. Several of the Ragtimers were founding members of the symphonic group, and three of the original Ragtimers including Sara Lomax still play with the Community Orchestra.

Meanwhile, the Ragtime group, now called Pacific Coast
has branched off into national performances
and has made many recordings.

The CCO’s Music Director, Kay Raney, began playing with the orchestra in its third year, became assistant director in 1988 and was appointed music director in 1991. On his tenth anniversary as director, the orchestra presented him with airplane tickets to Salzburg, Austria, Mozart’s birthplace.

When Raney teared up at news of the generous gift, one irreverent orchestra member called out “It’s a one-way ticket, Kay.â€?

The orchestra has premiered a number of Kay Raney’s own compositions, some of which were written to showcase the talents of specific orchestra members. For the Feb. 2 concert, Richard Gordon will be a guest conductor, but Raney has, as always, written all the informative program notes. Gordon has directed the Woodside Village Band since 1988.

“The first group [of the CCO] was very small, maybe
15,â€? flautist Sara Lomax says. “We played middle school arrangements of Handel’s Water Music and rehearsed in the Methodist Church’s old Sunday School room. Robert Smith [the Cunha Intermediate School music teacher] and Bill MacSems [music teacher at Half Moon Bay High School] traded off with the conducting. A first concert that I remember was behind Obester Winery in the Christmas tree field. I remember straddling a small Monterey pine between my feet as I played.â€?

Another founding orchestra member, Carole Tillotson, now a resident of Colorado, recalls that the three players and Tom McArthur, then pastor of the United Methodist Church, placed an ad in the Half Moon Bay Review asking people interested in forming an orchestra, to attend a meeting.

“Nine people showed up, including Sara, Claudine [Schwarz-Minton, the first concert mistress, who still resides and teaches on the Coastside], Derek [Evans, who still plays clarinet with the orchestra], and Joe DeFelice [whose widow plays first violin.]â€?

McArthur’s daughter, Tracy, played clarinet. At the winter Obester Winery event, “I remember playing percussion standing in the dirt between two Christmas trees,â€? Tillotson adds. “I played cello parts on the piano for at least two years,â€? she says. “Melinda Wagner [a professional cellist who lived on the Coastside and later became president of the San Francisco chapter of the Musicians’ Union] played the concerts for free. Tom McArthur’s daughter Tracy played clarinet for a while.â€?

Derek Evans, who was still in high school during the early meetings, married orchestra cellist Donna Musick several years ago. The orchestra’s timpani were donated in memory of Joe DeFelice, who died in 2001 at the age of 86, having played with the CCO for almost 17 years.

Two other members of the original CCO group, Jim Tillotson and Christy Zarate, now play locally, and abroad, with the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers.

In addition to the flute concerto, the Feb. 2 concert will include Joseph Haydn’s Overture to Il Mondo Della Luna and his symphony No. 104, one of the “Londonâ€? symphonies.

Join us for the concert that takes place at 8 P.M. at Community United Methodist Church, 777 Miramontes Street, Half Moon Bay.

The Coastside Community Orchestra is a nonprofit group, governed by a five- member board and is offered as a class by the Half Moon Bay Parks and Recreation Department. The group rehearses at the Ted Adcock Center in Half Moon Bay, performing there and at the Methodist Church. No auditions are required.

***Michaele Benedict’s beloved daughter, Anna vanished from her Purisima Creek home in 1974. Please visit Michaele Benedict’s (searchingforanna.com website)– click here