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Forte: The exquisite magic of instruments and voice

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Darline Charbonneau

Darline Charbonneau, chorus member of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra.

In 2018, I overheard a co-worker mention that she had just joined the Yakima Symphony Chorus. I asked for more details regarding rehearsals and whom to contact. I emailed chorusmaster Justin Raffa and explained that I read music and would love to join the YSC. He responded with an invitation to the next rehearsal! I was so excited; to be able to sing with an orchestra was a lifelong dream, one I never envisioned happening.

The chorus is made up of music professionals and amateurs like me who just love music and love to sing. Everyone in the chorus is extremely helpful, no one makes fun when mistakes are made (by amateurs and professionals) and we all work hard to learn the various parts with piano accompaniment. What I found to be most intriguing was learning different languages for some of the pieces. I thought it would be beyond my capability, but correct pronunciations are clearly given and — voila! — I am singing in Japanese, German, Russian and even Yiddish.

We are off during the summer and have three or four performances a year. We have one performance without the orchestra, usually at another location; St. Paul’s has been used in the past thanks to Monsignor Ecker, a musician himself.

Then, we have two or three performances with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. That is when the real magic happens — we rehearse with the orchestra. Oh my, what a glorious sound! We get in place for the performance, under the (yes, hot) lights on stage at The Capitol Theatre, and everyone in the audience seems to hold their breath waiting for the music to begin. Maestro Lawrence Golan raises his baton, and … pure magic!

This winter we have been meeting weekly on Zoom, with Justin providing additional training for us, and we look forward to singing together in person in the coming months.

• Darline Charbonneau is a chorus member of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. She and other symphony members write this column every four weeks for SCENE. Learn more about the symphony at

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