Relaxation: Singing with Choirs in Sonoma County


Sonoma County is a musical county.  In particular people here enjoy joining their voice with others in song.  Besides the beautiful sound that can be created, they enjoy the physical and mental stimulation that singing offers.  With the body as your instrument, the breathing alone is energizing.  And if desired, this activity provides an opportunity to interact in a socially unique way that other activities do not provide.  Word and sound join to communicate feelings as well as meaning for the singer and for the audience.

My Life in Song

Why do people do it?  If you ask a dozen people why they sing, you will get a dozen reasons. I sing for the social interaction, for the joy it gives the listener, and for the physical pleasure of breathing and producing sound in harmony with others.

Thirty five years ago, after not having sung since college, I and some neighbors revisited the pleasure of singing with others around a town bonfire. I took names and phone numbers, found a director, rehearsed in my living room, and, as we grew, looked for a larger venue.  Over the years we rehearsed and performed in local churches later performed up and down the Sonoma coast and San Francisco Bay area; eventually even performing at Grace Cathedral and  Davies Hall with the Paul Winter Consort, the Chieftains, and in northern Italy.


A Community of Song

We  have evolved into a collaboration of singers, songwriters, and singer-songwriters whose mission statement is to create, collaborate in performing, and promote great music, much of it composed by our members. We mentor and support one another in developing our skills as singers, lyricists, and composers. Our music encompasses a wide range of personal experience and reflects the authentic connection we have with one another and the larger community.

Currently we perform two concert series per year, one in the winter and the other in the spring.  We choose a theme for the next year’s program, write lyrics and music, and produce the programs. Now in its 35th year, the Occidental Community Choir (OCC) has long since solidified its reputation for excellence by producing unique concert experiences that combine humor, storytelling, poetry, varied instrumental accompaniment, and an off-the-beaten-path repertoire.  Song titles include a range of topics reflected in such titles as “Treat Me Like a Dog” and “Russian River Blues.”

To hear some samples, visit our website at


Our Spring Concert

This spring our theme title is “All Our Relations,” in which we explore our relationships to each other and nature.  Some songs are silly, some are poignant, others a simple celebration of music.  Tickets are available from Brown Paper Tickets online, and at the door.

For the past few years the choir has worked in partnership with the Occidental Center for the Arts to realize the dream of finally creating a permanent home for the OCC—and a venue for all the arts—in the town of Occidental.  The dream came to fruition at Harmony Village, the former site of Harmony School.  To learn more about this thriving arts hub to life in West County, please visit the Occidental Center for the Arts website at

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Want to Sing Along?

In researching choirs in Sonoma County, I counted easily a dozen choirs open to the public not affiliated with a public institution or religious group.  If you want to find a group of people to sing with, ask yourself these questions:

  • How often would you want to rehearse?
  • Do you want to perform?
  • Do you like to travel?
  • What kind of music would you like to learn?  Classical? Only Bach? Jazz? Pop? Gospel? Original?  Liturgical?
  • Do you want to sing only American traditional?
  • Do you want to explore other cultures?

Maybe where or what you sing matters less to you than with whom or to whom you sing.  Do you prefer:

  • All men’s choir?
  • Children’s choir?
  • Community choir?
  • Do you want to sing with an intimate group, or the bigger the better?
  • Do you want to bring comfort to the bedside of those who could use the healing that music brings?

Perhaps you have always wanted to be on the big stage with lots of others.  Perhaps you are a trained musician or vocalist.  Then again maybe you just like to sing in the shower.  There is a choir in Sonoma County just for you.

The Occidental Community Choir will hold our next audition on Wednesday, May 28 at 7PM at the Occidental Center for the Arts (our regular rehearsal space and performance venue).  For more information, please send an e-mail to our music director Andy DelMonte:

For more choices, try visiting these sites:

I recommend listening to various groups to find the perfect match you are looking for.  Ask yourself the questions above, and you will be able to find which choir will meet your interests and needs. But by all means, keep singing!


by Diane Masura