Choral Session - Then and Now

We wanted to feature Choral Session in this issue of the newsletter. I remember when I was a high school camper, I was invited by Mr. O. to come up for a few days to Choral Session to play in the small orchestra needed to accompany the choir for their concert. I was so impressed with the level of music and the intricacies of the harmony. It was amazing to hear how well choral campers could harmonize all the camp songs during camp fire. The music was so much richer. I was reluctant to sing along too loudly. I didn’t want any of them to know how lacking I was in choral training. What great memories!

We contacted Mrs. Fran Harding, a fixture at Choral Session for nearly 30 years, and the conductors from this last summer to give us their perspectives on Choral Session and to fill us in on their careers. Enjoy!


For nearly thirty years, Mrs. Frances Harding was an integral part of Choral Session at Arrowbear. Affectionately known as “Sarge,” she first came to camp in 1953 to be a coach and teacher at one of the junior high sessions. The next summer she joined the Choral Session staff and participated in teaching and running the Choral Sessions every summer until 1982. She rehearsed sectionals, conducted a girls group, and was dean of girls. In the 50s and 60s, when Phil Ellithorpe and Carl Robertson were the conductors at camp, they always had the campers perform selections from popular musicals. The campers really enjoyed a chance to perform music that was different from the kind they learned in their schools. Later, other choral conductors selected more serious music for the Choral programs. That change disappointed some of the campers, but drew others who wanted formal choral works.

Mrs. Harding began teaching in the Long Beach Unified School District in 1952. She met Mr. Ohlendorf, who was then the Assistant Music Supervisor for the schools, when he asked her to play bassoon in an orchestra he had formed. She became close, life-long friends with both of the Ohlendorfs. Even though she retired from teaching in 1982, Mrs. Harding continues to substitute in the Long Beach schools to this day, though she now prefers subbing only for music teachers she knows.

You might think that retirement would bring mornings on the golf course or more time to spend in the garden, but that isn’t Sarge’s cup of tea. She is very active in numerous musical activities in the Long Beach area, playing her bassoon in several of them. She teaches music appreciation at the Cerritos Senior Center and through the Senior University at Cal State Long Beach. She is a member of the Tuesday Musical in Pasadena which meets twice a month. They put on concerts at the Pasadena Library. She plays in the St. Cecelia group as well. They meet monthly and each member must perform at least twice during the year. The Long Beach Quintet meets at her house every week, and she participates in a recorder group. She is president of the Musical Arts Club which is in charge of putting on a concert once a month at a senior retirement home in Long Beach. Mrs. Eddie Ohlendorf got her involved with that group years ago. She also keeps her hand in the education field by serving as the treasurer for the Retired Teachers Association. Of course, she makes plenty of time to enjoy visits from her family when they are able to come to Long Beach or so she can travel a bit.

Sarge has devoted her adult life to enjoying, teaching, and performing music. Arrowbear campers were very fortunate that she shared her love for music with them and guided so many of them to keep music a part of their lives forever. We sincerely thank her for her efforts.


What is it that would cause someone to return to camp year after year---for 23 years? Is it the music, the friendship, the outdoors, the camaraderie, the food, or, of course, a combination of the all of the above? For me, the answer continues to be the last. I believe in what Arrowbear stands for; its unique combination of music making at a high level, and its great social inter-actions that are unmatched by any music camp in the west. Nowhere is this more evident than at the choral session.

Each summer students from many different backgrounds and geographic locations converge on camp for one week of singing under the direction of myself and two of the finest high school choral conductors in the state, John Byun and Jason Harney. The eight member counseling staff is made up completely of University level voice and music education majors---most of whom work as section leaders during the year at their respective institutions---schools with established voice programs like CSULB, Mt. Sac, Chapman, and USC. The combination of high school students and outstanding collegiate talent has provided a level of musicianship and focus in the choir that creates an incredibly hard working atmosphere.

Our days are long and filled with music and fun. We begin with a morning assembly/joke time/ warm - up at 8:45 a.m., followed by a rehearsal from 9 to 10:30. After a half-hour break, we rehearse again for an hour and a half. The early afternoon is spent hiking, playing volleyball, swimming, preparing for musicales, or enjoying the mountains and the company of like-minded young singers. After a mandatory rest period (without too much complaining) and dinner, we reconvene for another 2 hour rehearsal, followed by an evening activity. The basic schedule hasn't changed in 63 summers---musicales, the Coconut Bear Talent Show, dances, and a carnival or theme dining night make for a great week of fun evenings.

Why do I keep coming back? I guess I love to see kids turned on to the high caliber music that is so often missing from their local high schools. I enjoy the interactions with the younger students, and I love the look on their faces when they feel themselves locked into the core of a great chord. I chose to be a choral conductor because of the experiences I had at camp growing up, and I pray that another generation of conductors, singers, and lovers of our art will emerge from the great experiences available to so many---for so little money----each summer at A.M.C. I hope you will be able to support the program generously, so that students who could not otherwise afford this incredible experience will be able to do so.

      Jonathan Talberg  

Meet the Conductors Of Choral Session

Dr. Jonathan Talberg serves as Director of Choral, Vocal, and Opera Studies at California State University, Long Beach where he is music director of the University and Chamber Choirs. Ensembles under his baton have toured the United States and the world. He has conducted at the Music Educator’s National Conference, at several All-State choir concerts, and in various venues throughout Europe and Asia, including St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, The Karlskirche in Vienna, and the Great Wall of China. Most recently, he has been invited to prepare a choir of 250 singers for two European summer music festivals in 2006—in Lubliana, Slovenia, and Valencia, Spain.

A recipient of the prestigious Oliver Family Foundation grant for outstanding American conductors, Dr. Talberg has served as Conducting Assistant to the Cincinnati Symphony and the Cincinnati Pops. He sits on the advisory board for Music America, where his expertise in high school music education has been instrumental in creating festivals that surpass the national standards for arts education. Dr. Talberg serves as principal choral conductor at Arrowbear Music Camp, and he is in much demand as a clinician and adjudicator. He holds a D.M.A. and a M.M. in Conducting from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, and a B.M. in Choral Conducting from Chapman University.

John Byun received his Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of California, Irvine and his Masters in Choral Conducting from California State University Long Beach. He has been at Murrieta Valley High School for ten years where he directs the beginning Concert Choir, Intermediate Women’s Ensemble, a 100 voiced Advanced Chorale, Chamber Singers, and a Jazz Choir. Last year, the Chamber Singers performed at the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) Western Regional Conference, where they were selected from over hundreds of applicants. The Chamber Singers also has placed first in the Golden State Choral Competition and the Chorale was part of Eric Whitacre’s Opera Electronica in Berlin. Mr. Byun also teaches a Music Appreciation class at MSJC Menifee and is one of the co directors of Arrowbear Music Camp. He has sung with the Orange County Pacific Chorale as one of the Bass section leaders and worked with Opera Pacific and the Long Beach Opera Chorus. He has served on the Southern California Vocal Association Board as VP of High School Festivals, and he spends his “free” time with his wife, Mary, and three year old son, Mikail.

Choral Memories

In the summer of 1972 at Choral Session, Dennis Dockstader and Jay Kohorn decided that we needed to put on a Tuesday night recital of J.S. Bach’s “Coffee Contata.” This was the first time I had heard of this piece, and we had about three days to throw it together. The instrumentalists seemed to have a jump on the singers as we weren’t all the best sight singers at the time, but we blundered on and got the desired result. We were nearly laughed out of the dining hall.

Since then, I have performed the Coffee Cantata twice more, and now I am taking a group of very accomplished musicians to Scotland in August 2004 to perform for a week at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I am living on the island of Maui in Hawaii now and life is wonderful. I perform more now than I ever did when I lived in Southern California, both vocally and instrumentally. The one thing I remember about the performance at Arrowbear, aside from the laughter, was the shine in Mr. O.’s eyes. It was that same shine that has propelled so many wonderful musicians, and wonderful people, to become the best they could be professionally and personally. Mr. O. was one of three individuals that I can say were guiding examples in my life. All of them gave more of themselves than was ever required, and their compensation was us. What they did to make us what we were, and what we are today, was what was most important to each of them.

      Mahalo mui loa,
Cameron Keys

Feel free to send us your memories of Choral Sessions - past or present. We’ll publish them in the next issue.