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A Real Blowout : Jeanne Hum, a Performer of Note Herself, Is Expecting Champion Whistlers From Around the World at Annual Party

TIMES STAFF WRITER

She doesn’t hum.

Nope, Jeanne Hum whistles. And when she whistles each year at this time, her friends come running.

Hum, a championship whistler, has summoned other whistlers and whistle-music enthusiasts to bring their green hats and pursed lips to her Rolling Hills Estates home tonight for her annual St. Patrick’s Day party.

With five international and national champion whistlers in the crowd, it’s a good bet that nobody will be wishing there was a bagpipe around to pump some feeling into “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

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Among this country’s 50 or so professional whistlers, Hum’s yearly party is famous. She and her husband, Bob, have turned their place into a St. Patrick’s Day whistle stop for nearly 25 years. This year’s 45 guests are coming from Australia, Canada and as far east as Florida. Some even RSVP’d before the invitations were sent.

“We try to promote whistling as an art form. We take it very seriously. But we have fun too,” she said.

Hum, 64, has had fun ever since she discovered her unique talent at age 5. She said nuns at her Youngstown, Ohio, elementary school at first tried to blow the whistle on her music, saying it was unladylike.

But she found plenty of support at home. Whistler’s mother happily chauffeured her girl around town to perform. In fact, it was during one of those outings--to a club audition at age 15--that Hum met the man she would eventually marry.

“I said to my mother that Hum was the dumbest name. But I’ve always liked being Hum. I tell people that now they know a whistling Hum.” She even titled her first album “Hum Whistles.”

Hum has done whistle-overs for two movies and won seven trophies at international “whistle-off” competitions in the United States and at the European Whistling Championships. And some travelers consider the unusual music she provided for one U.S. airline’s in-flight audio system to be a breath of fresh air.

She’ll keep tonight’s party humming with traditional Irish food and drink. But don’t expect much Irish whiskey to be downed early: Her friends know better than to wet their whistles with alcohol.

“One drink, OK,” Hum explained. “Two drinks you start downhill. Three drinks and it’s over. It makes your mouth too dry.”

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Sean Alan Lomax, a national champion from Murietta, Calif., who is known for the classical music he whistles, said he has been looking forward all year to tonight. “It’s a nice way for whistlers to get together,” the 33-year-old electronics technician said.

Dan Bell, a former national grand champion and 74-year-old retired plumber from Sunnyvale, said he may pucker up tonight for one of his favorite tunes: “Danny Boy.” “It’s difficult because it’s got a lot of high notes,” he said.

Other guests include Bob Larson, a Mesa, Ariz., resident who is current president of the International Assn. of Whistlers, and international champion Herman Smith of Palmdale.

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“We’re trying to get people to realize that there’s a lot more to whistling than bird calls,” said Larson, 69, a retired cardboard company designer.

Not all of tonight’s invitees are whistlers, Hum said.

But if anybody shows up thinking her kind of music isn’t really music, she predicts they’ll be whistling a different tune when they leave.


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