Our Laguna: Mayor helps strike up the band

The Laguna Community Concert Band scored another hit performance Monday at the Festival of Arts.

The concert was a musical triumph that few would have imagined when the idea of a community band was first conceived over a cup of coffee in 1998 at Zinc Café. Founders Bill Nicholls, Teresa Marino and Carol Reynolds had come up with an idea whose time was long overdue.

In the beginning the band had to beg to be heard. Many in the audience at the early concerts were there because of their friendship with the original band members: local conductor Ed Peterson, musicians Dennis White, Ken Hanson, Sheryl Caverly, Niko Theris and the three founders.

The band has since grown to 60-plus members. Some of them, like Reynolds, a pianist, hadn't touched another instrument in years. Now she sits in a full brass section, playing the French horn.

"Who would have thunk it?" she said.

The band is always looking for good musicians. Rehearsals are held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at Laguna Beach High School. It's listed as a class through the Irvine Valley College Emeritus Institute, headed by Dave Anderson.

And the band welcomes enthusiastic guest conductors.

"We've been practicing for you," band President Matt Wood told Mayor Toni Iseman, who was invited to conduct "God Bless America" at Monday's concert.

Iseman was presented with a baton and a certificate conferring honorary band membership as a token of the band's appreciation. It was her second appearance with the band.

"It is one of the perks of being mayor," said Iseman, a music lover and mother of a musician.

Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda has been tapped as guest conductor for the band's next gig at the festival Aug. 17. Kollenda will also serve as mistress of ceremonies for the performance, a task undertaken Monday by Lona Ingwerson.

"It is a big undertaking to get everything here and set up," said Jean Paris, wife of band member Jack Paris.

The musicians tote in their own music stands. Chairs, the backdrop, the scores and larger instruments, such as the vibraphone, have to be trucked in.

"It takes about three hours," Jean Paris said.

Sometimes longer.

On Monday, Steve Calhoun got stuck in traffic with his restored vibraphone. Vocalist Linda Hughes stepped in to take his place in the first set for "Blue Moon."

The set opened with the "The Star-Spangled Banner," but ranged from a John Philip Sousa march to Gary Gould's pennywhistle "Rose of Tralee" solo, to a tribute to swing band-era clarinetist Artie Shaw that included "Begin the Beguine," but not "Summit Ridge Drive," which would have been so appropriate in Laguna.

"This is for my wife, Emily," clarinetist John Lasser said.

Since its inception, the band has also fostered smaller ensembles: the SwingSet, Laguna Flutes, Third Street Strutters and a brass quintet.

SwingSet was also featured on the program, with Ginger Hatfield vocalizing

"Ginger began singing on Laguna Beach stages, starting in the third grade at El Morro," Ingwerson said.

Hatfield also performs in "Lagunatics."

Hughes was backed by the full band for her rendition of "I Love Being Here With You," followed by "Tico Tuba" with Charlie Warren on tuba and then songs from "Fiddler on the Roof, sung by Lisa Morrice and Jeffry Nottke.

Warren again was showcased in the Strutters' version of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

SwingSet featured guitarist Alan Schenk on "Tangerine," Gould on the alto sax favorite "Harlem Nocturne," Hatfield singing "Orange Colored Sky" and Calhoun on "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter."

The final three selections included Hughes singing the Peggy Lee classic, "Why Don't You Do Right?", "Chimes of Liberty" and a rousing "William Tell Overture."

The band now plays about 20 concerts a year but has never been asked to perform at the Music in the Park Concert Series at Bluebird Park.

Its summer series has included the Memorial Day Concert on the Cobblestones at Main Beach; the annual Patriotic Concert on July 4 at the Sawdust Art Festival; a performance July 9 at the Murray Community Center in Mission Viejo; and Monday's appearance at the festival.

The big Swing Band and the Laguna Flutes will play from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Art-A-Fair; from 5 to 6:15 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Huntington Beach Summer Concert Series; and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 on the Festival of Arts Green.

The nonprofit is funded by grants and donations. Contributions are welcomed.

"To quote Tennessee Williams, we depend on the kindness of strangers," Ingwerson said.

For more information about the band, visit http://lccband.org/ or call 1-888-308-8324, ext. 400.


'Vapping' draws a crowd

E-Cig City, which began selling electronic cigarettes in March in Laguna, hosted a get-together Saturday at the shop at 1970 S. Coast Hwy.

It was standing-room-only for aficionados of "vapping," a verb coined by the use of juices vaporized in the e-cigs.

"Everyone here was a cigarette smoker," said Donna Pounds.

Many of the customers had come from out of town.

Pounds is a San Diego resident. Frank McGinnis came from Tustin.

McGinnis starting vapping with purchases made online.

"I bought a lot of overpriced stuff that I knew nothing about," McGinnis said. "When I got it, I didn't like it, but it was my own fault for buying online.

"The industry has grown so much. It takes a year of study to figure out what everything is. Here in the store, I can talk to someone who is knowledgeable and make an educated purchase."

E-cigs are billed as the newest technology in the fight against tobacco smoking, but they are not usually nicotine-free.

The store features basic e-cigarettes in 10 colors, one of them with a pretend filter, the batteries that charge them, accessories, pipes and little bottles of flavored juices called Pink Spot Vapors.

The amount of nicotine is listed on the bottle. Amounts range from zero to 36 milligrams per milliliter.

Juice is poured into the electronic cigarette. They boil and become vapor.

There are no age restrictions on purchases, but the industry has a policy of not selling to customers younger than 18, E-Cig City owner Jason Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer is a resident of Laguna with his wife, Nguyen Thi Honk Linh, and stepchildren, Aaron Oberndorf, who graduated last year from Laguna Beach High School, and Julia, who will be a senior next semester.

The advantages of e-cigs are claimed to be the pleasure and sensation of smoking without the tar, stink, ashes, yellow teeth, foul breath or secondhand smoke.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 380-4321 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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