At a wedding reception in Tiburon in 1980, a discussion took place about "why not get a group of guys together once in a while to sing college songs, and the like." John Doherty, Joe Bacheller, Ray Jasek and Tom Behrens were attending. Former Tiburon mayor Al Kuhn and his wife, Joy, hosted the wedding for one of their children. The idea caught on, and an evening was picked to meet at Del Mar School. A few phone calls were made, and a piano was available in the music room.
In February 1981 the first meeting of what became the Tiburon Men's Chorus was held in the music room at Del Mar School. A gaggle of more than 20 voices showed up. Professor Hy Krongard, who had been teaching vocal music and music appreciation for years at College of Marin and at Del Mar School and was a respected member of the musical community, became the first conductor.
Behrens figured the way for the men to solidify into a cohesive group was to feed 'em all Bloody Marys on a Sunday morning. Diane Smith from the Ark (Tiburon newspaper) was called to record the event for posterity. Weekly rehearsals of two hours commenced. People began to hear of the song group from Tiburon while wives of members were pleased to have an evening to themselves.
The first accompanist was Hy Krongard who doubled as director and accompanist in those early days. The first concert was held at the Nazareth House Residence in San Rafael in the summer of '81. More rehearsals and the group was on its way.
Moulding the Chorus
Early on it was decided that certain responsibilities had to be assigned to some of the members in order to sustain the goals of the Chorus. A standard dress was decided on : "BBGS" = blue blazer, gray slacks and, of course, a clean white shirt. Bob Derryberry (now deceased) selected a colorful striped tie from his ancestral England. A blend of red and maroon and striped from right to left in the American style. Navy blue was the other color (which matched the blue blazer). After Bob passed away, this necktie became known as "the Derryberry tie". It is the only tie that has been worn by the men while performing.
John Doherty, with his fine gift of gab (he never kissed the Blarney Stone), became the Chorus' Spokesman and MC. Having grown up in Boston and attended the oldest high school in the Nation, Boston Latin School, John had a strong Irish lilt, mixed with a New England accent which the ladies loved. If John didn't speak the Chorus wouldn't sing! He could warm up a polar bear in hibernation. Someone was put in charge of music collection, and nearly everyone was tasked with making copies. Fred Wardenburg had stock in Xerox and encouraged all of us to make plenty of copies!
Joe Bacheller and several others were put in charge of getting gigs for the fellows to sing. He went as far north as Yountville and Sonoma and south into the City. The chorus performed a variety of gigs and many became annual events.
Ray Truman became the publicity man. Someone was put in charge of cookies and coffee - this had to be rotated every 90 days. Oreo and chocolate chip cookies became the standard, although one member kept bringing in his wife's apricot tarts which quickly disappeared.
Don Miller (center) with Autumn Allee (left) and Heather Creighton (right)
In 1996 with the passing of founder/director Hy Krongard, then accompanist Dottie Nordstrand asked Don Miller who was a singer/conductor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon to conduct a memorial concert for Hy. He agreed to do so for that event. A number of old members showed up and the memorial was truly memorable. As it was October of 1996, and the chorus was heading into the Christmas season, Don Miller was asked by Ham Kirchmaier and Bill Gwatkin to conduct the chorus for the upcoming Holiday season. He agreed to do it until Christmas if the rehearsal night could be changed from Wednesday to Tuesday evening. That was done and so a new chorus/conductor relationship was established. Don Miller led the chorus from 1996 through the 2009-2010 season ending with the traditional spring concert.
Our Current Director: Denise Wharmby
Denise Wharmby brings years of theatrical experience, sense of humor, vocal expertise and remnants of an Australian accent to the Marin Men’s Chorus rehearsal room and concert platform. She has worked as a professional pianist, singer, music director, voice teacher and chorus director, here in Marin and around the globe.
Our Third and Fifth Director: Shawn Aluk
During the next five years the chorus was led by our third director, Shawn Aluk, who had completed his degree at University of Michigan and was a music educator in San Francisco. Under Shawn's leadership the chorus broadened its performing scope, singing at several new functions including the Marin County Fair, a toy-drive event in San Francisco, and most notably as a backup group for the well known Irish band, The Chieftans. Shawn also managed the move of our public holiday and spring concerts to a new location, the Marin Civic Center Showcase Theater, where we often had guest groups join us in performance. Also, Shawn moved the chorus away from the 'standard dress' (blue blazer, grey slacks, and Derryberry striped tie) to tuxedos for the holiday and spring public concerts and to black turtlenecks and grey slacks for fall/winter performances or black short-sleeve shirts with the new MMC logo for spring performances at assisted living and other informal concerts.
Our Fourth Director: Autumn Allee
Autumn became the fourth director of Marin Men's Chorus in the fall of 2015. She was the first female director of the chorus. Autumn introduced a new musical dynamic to rehearsals and performances that chorus members have appreciated for easy to follow teaching methods and clear conducting style during rehearsals and performances. Autumn led us through five fall and five spring seasons.
Pictures of the Chorus
More coming soon!