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Mt. Madonna Choir
Handy to Have Around the Ashram: The joyous, uplifting singers of the Mount Madonna Choir raise their spirits and their digits to celebrate the rerelease of their first album at Santa Cruz's Holy Cross Church on Friday and Saturday nights.

The gilded voices of Mount Madonna Choir take a journey through the musical ages

By Karen Reardanz

MUSIC HAS STOOD THE TEST of time, trudging through infectious disease, barbaric torture and religious crusades, emerging virtually unscathed. Though its composers may long be dust in the wind, the music remains alive and kicking.

Tucked away in the mountains high above Watsonville lies the stomping grounds for the Mount Madonna Choir, a group of powerful voices that recognizes music as art. Begun as an entertainment faction for the Mount Madonna Center, the yoga center/spiritual community, the choir has been traveling through euphonious traditions for almost 15 years.

This weekend, the choir pays lyrical tribute to song when it performs its annual autumn Santa Cruz concert, showcasing a collection of audience favorites and aural virgin territory. An eclectic mix, reflective of choir tastes and those Santa Cruz audiences, the shows also get the hoopla rolling for the CD rerelease of the group's refashioned first album, Keeper of the Stars. It's an album that reflects the clarity of the ensemble. Recorded in the dome of the Lick Observatory, all acoustic with no Dolby mixing, it shimmers with pure vocal mastery.

The choir pays homage to all rhythmical walks of life, leaving barely one pebble of the musical world unturned. Barbershop? No problem. Rock & roll? Not afraid of it. Gospel? Okey-dokey. Naturally, the choir seamlessly blends modernity with classicism, incorporating Gregorian chants, Renaissance pieces and Baroque chamber music into its repertoire--no self-respecting choir would be seen without those gems of harmonious history. The styles may not seem likely bedfellows but all the songs are spawned from a common sacred base.

Spirituality is a driving force behind the Mount Madonna Choir, but the ensemble manages to distinguish itself as a non-secular entity. Finding its depth in Christianity, Buddhism, African American spirituals and practically everything in between, the choir maintains a respect for life and brings across--with a strong, gilded voice nonetheless--its power and beauty.

Tightly knit and personally connected, the choir has love for song but wants the world to know that, first and foremost, these folks are the best of friends. Becoming a Mount Madonnaite is sort of like becoming an ump or sitting on the Supreme Court--once you're in, you're in for life. And if you have your sights set on a choir seat, you'd best sit tight--you just might have to wait till one of these songbirds flies the coop to Fort Lauderdale.

Song, spirituality and the love of a good tune. The Mount Madonna Choir lives and breathes music the way it performs it--pure and ethereal.

Mount Madonna Choir performs on Friday and Saturday (8pm) at Holy Cross Church, 210 High St., Santa Cruz. Tickets cost $12/$10/$8. For more info, call 429-9600.

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From the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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