As the New Year begins, I reflect on the local arts events of the past year. Among them are the art shows at the center, choir concerts, symphony concerts, theater productions, the Diva/Divo Concert, songwriter’s showcase, poetry readings, dance recitals, Kids Discover Arts, Garlic Festival entertainment and the wonderful Fifth Street Music Series. How fortunate we are to have this wealth of enrichment in our community.
One of the most memorable concerts of 2011 was “A Gaelic Christmas” with Mary McLaughlin and the Cor Aingli Choir performing Christmas songs in Irish Gaelic. McLaughlin’s amazing vocal range and charming, humorous banter between songs was a treat in the midst of holiday frenzy. Irish harp, Irish flute, hammer dulcimer, bodhran drum, guitar and hand bells added authentic flavor to the music. You may want to add this annual event held at Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill to your holiday traditions.
If it wasn’t for Kathy and John Hopkins, who both perform with Cor Aingli, I may have missed this musical treat. Knowing the exceptional musical ability of both Hopkins, I didn’t want to miss the chance to hear them perform.
Kathy, a native Californian, grew up with 10 siblings. A gifted musician, she learned to play the harmonica at age 3. Her early music appreciation came from vinyl records of classical music, which her mom received as a free gift with purchase from the Four Roses Society. She also inherited a bugle from her father who actually was the bugle boy from Company B of the 184th Infantry Regiment in World War II.
At 5, she had a week of piano lessons before the piano was sold. But the family continued to sing together, keeping music alive. In eighth grade, Kathy learned to play the clarinet at Brownell School and sang in the choir under the direction of Gwen Altenburg. At Gilroy High School, mentored by Creighton Yip, she played clarinet and saxophone and sang in choir.
She was trained in voice by Catherine O’Bergin and sang in the San Jose Symphonic Choir for five years under the direction of George Cleve. Kathy plays English hand bells, the Celtic harp, 12-string guitar, recorder, mountain and hammer dulcimer, and ocarina.
John was born in Illinois, spent his early years in Davenport, Iowa, and his family moved to San Jose when he was in kindergarten. He played the violin in second and third grade and trombone in junior high school.
As a part of the “hippy” generation, he didn’t feel right sitting under a tree playing the trombone so he took up guitar in high school. Although he hasn’t had formal music training, he did study voice with Catherine O’Bergin. She recognized his musical ear and sent him to the hand bell factory in Allentown, Pa., so that he could choose the bells for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
Violinist Vicky Morton encouraged him to attend Scottish Fiddling School, where he gained confidence and learned dozens of tunes by ear. In addition to the violin, guitar and hand bells, he plays the bouzouki (related to the lute), Irish whistles, autoharp, banjo, string bass and bodhran drum. He also built one of the most beautiful guitars I have ever seen, and with a little coaxing he will show you his photographs, which are beyond amateur. A humble man, John loves playing and adding to the music but doesn’t want to be “up front.”
Kathy and John have been married 38 years and have two sons, Luke and Ian. They met while attending classes at Gavilan College and have been making beautiful music together ever since. In fact, they sang at their own wedding.
They both work at Hitachi, carpooling together and spending their days involved with technology. Kathy loves to listen to classical music, while John leans toward folk.
“We are always willing to play; no ego involved. When we play we make a lot of people happy,” Kathy said. Both attribute church to keeping them involved in the arts.
Noche Flamenca, A fundraiser for ETC programs and St.Francis Retreat
7:30 p.m. Jan 17-18
Tickets: $50 in advance and $60 at the door
The Playhouse, 705 Fourth St., San Juan Bautista
“On The Town”
Jan 20 – Feb 11
Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road, MorganHill
(408) 842-SHOW or www.svct.org
Auditions for “Out Of Order”
1:30 p.m. Jan. 7-8
If you cannot make either time Call (408) 607-4374
SVCT Warehouse 16840 Joleen Way, Bldg F, Unit 4, Morgan Hill
Stand Up Comedy
7:30 p.m. Jan 25
9 Lives Club, 7430 Monterey St., Gilroy
At 7:30 p.m. Jan 26
The Playhouse, 17090 Monterey St., Morgan Hill
Exhibits and gift shop
2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.Saturdays
Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St.
(408) 842-6999 or gilroyartsalliance.com