California Community Ensemble Celebrates Eighth Year With Concert at Finke Theatre

California Community Ensemble Director Phil Lewis welcomes those in attendance to their fall performance.

California Community Ensemble Director Phil Lewis welcomes those in attendance to their fall performance. Photo by John Inman.

Finke Theatre hosted California Community Ensemble's Fall Concert held Sunday, Nov. 6. The ensemble, celebrating its eighth year, played a variety of numbers from the Star Spangled Banner to a medley of Lion King songs. Phil Lewis, director, started the ensemble in 2003 after persistent requests by an individual in the community.

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The California Community Ensemble Performs "America the Beautiful" at Finke Theatre.

"When my wife Nancy and I first moved to California," Lewis said, "a fellow was working at what was then Farmers and Traders Bank by the name of Rob Hoff and he kept pestering me about how I needed to start a band. He was a trumpet player and his wife Ellen worked at the school and played clarinet. He would get after me every now and then about starting the band. Well I did not get around to starting the band before they moved but in 2003 I decided to go ahead and start the band. I put a little thing in the California Democrat about forming the band and gave the day and time we were meeting. The first time we had about six people show up and we got started. I picked music to start off with which we could play no matter how many we had. Then we added a couple more until now we have about 20 members."

Lewis said with every performance they would pick up new members interested after seeing them. He added they are not a municipal band which is supported through taxes which he sees as an advantage. Having the freedom to choose what, where and when they will perform has been great.

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The California Community Ensemble poses for a picture before their performance Saturday, Nov. 5, at Finke Theatre.

The partnership the ensemble has formed with the Finke Theatre has been mutually beneficial to both as the theater has another artist to showcase and the band has a great theater to use with great acoustics according to Lewis.

"When they first started renovating the building I expressed an interest in being able to perform here at least on occasion," Lewis said. "Through an agreement with the Finke Theatre Board of Directors they have graciously provided us with the opportunity to perform here. We have done one or two other programs including a Christmas performance. We love to play here. The acoustics in this building are fantastic. That is because it was built in 1885 before the advent of electronic amplification. So it was constructed and designed to help project sound."

He added Finke Theatre is the crown jewel in California's crown. Directing a group of dedicated musicians for the past eight years has been a great experience for Lewis.

"It has been a lot of fun for me," Lewis said. "I worked for years with the school system and young players. That was fun too, but it has been really great to work with adults and share their sense of humor. It is nice when I raise my hand to bring the volume up they actually do it. They are very responsive to direction and they want to play well. They work very hard at it. I look forward every Thursday to going to band practice."

Lewis said the ensemble will wrap up their concert year by performing Dec. 3 at the Finke Theatre as part of Christmas California Style and then performances at both nursing homes in town. Then they will take a break from mid-December to March 1.

He added they always welcome new members no matter how long it has been since they have played. They meet each Thursday at California United Church of Christ at 8 p.m., in the old fellowship room. For more information, you can call Lewis at 573-796-3754.

"We have been blessed with very talented people who are dedicated to the group," Lewis said. "Everyone misses once in a while, but most do not like missing. Part of that is they enjoy playing and the other part is because we really do have a good time during rehearsal. I have said for many years to my bands once you are a member of the band you are always a member of the band/family."

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