Someone once told Jo Sturm, “There’s not all that much talent on the Key Peninsula.” For Sturm, that was reason enough to prove that person wrong, so she founded the Key Singers 10 years ago.

The Key Singers are a group of Key Penners from all walks of life. Photo by Karina Whitmarsh

On May 18 the Key Singers presented a concert titled “A Decade of Song” and invited Sturm, now living in Spokane, to join them in celebration of their decade as an organization. Marianne McColley, the Key Singers director and a charter member, said, “One of the best community efforts is that of singing. There is a leveling effect when people get together and sing.” McColley, a longtime music teacher, said, “The international — maybe galactic — mode of communication is the language of music.”

The group started meeting at Strum’s church in Longbranch. “It had the instrument and the capacity,” McColley said. “We still have some of the same people, but some come and go. Over the years, some were needed to be in the ‘heavenly chorus.’ We have not grown dramatically, but stayed within the range of 20 to 30 members.”

The Singers “are always hoping to have an influx of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.” Several new people recently joined the group, who welcomes “anyone who can carry a tune, plink on a banjo, and play clarinet or piano.”

“They don’t have to read music,” McColley said. “It’s a lot of fun. We hope it’s listenable and entertaining.”

President Kathy Herold, a “lady tenor,” sometimes wears a fake moustache when the group sings “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” because there aren’t enough men’s voices. Herold told the KP News, “Music is everything. It’s such a great outlet, such an enhancement to life…We are a close-knit group. We care about each other.”  She said the group holds no tryouts or additions. “We do this for the community. We sing for people who appreciate it,” she said.

Everyone in the group has some church affiliation, so many of the songs are spiritual; but they also perform many popular songs and Broadway hits, like “Hello Dolly!,” “Cabaret” and “Kids.” Ranging in age from teenagers to 92, performers in the group hold two formal concerts each year. One funds a scholarship to a musically inclined KP student attending Peninsula High School; it also purchases music, which McColley said is “extraordinarily priced.” The other is the annual concert for donations to the food bank at Christmas. The Key Singers also perform at a variety of events, including the annual Memorial Day celebration at Vaughn Cemetery, the Key Center tree lighting, and the Old Timers’ Day; and at nursing homes like Cottesmore, Manor Care, and Maple Creek. This June, the group will have an extensive music program at the Relay for Life at Goodman Middle School in Gig Harbor.

Vaughn resident Colleen Slater, who has been singing with the group for six or sevent years, said, “Music has always been an important part of my life, and to find this group to sing and become friends with is a special gift.” Her husband, Frank added, “We’re a social group with a common interest.” (The Slaters are both KP News volunteer staff members.)

At the May concert, Sturm presented her solo rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — one of her favorites — accompanied by her friend, original Key Singers piano accompanist, Ann Craven, co-founder of the group. Sturm expressed her sentiments about the Key Singers, saying, in part: “[A community chorus] was a dream that I carried for many years. A door opened. And I found that dreams can come true with the help of others. All I had to do was walk through the door.”

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