Director of the LagunaTunes Community Chorus, Bob Gunn, delves into detail about the nonprofit’s purpose, history and focus on camaraderie.
By Izzy De Leon
Performing two local concerts each year and participating in events like the Patriot’s Day Parade, the LagunaTunes Community Chorus presents a diverse set of musical genres, from traditional pieces to jazz, pop and rock.
The nonprofit chorus—which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a special show in June—practices once a week and welcomes new members at the beginning of each choral season, both in September and February. As a community-inclusive group, auditions are not required as the chorus finds a place for members of all levels and skill sets.
LagunaTunes Director Bob Gunn shares a little about the group’s history and what to expect this season, as well as his own musical experience. Among other positions, he was a longtime artistic director of the MenAlive gay chorus.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What is your background in the choral community?
Bob Gunn: I’ve been a musician all my life. I started playing the piano when I was 3 and was a pianist for most of my adult life. I then transitioned into choral directing where I learned a lot from the great directors I’ve worked with. Now, I’ve directed musical ensembles and worked at churches.
LBM: What is the history of the chorus?
BG: The chorus was started 20 years ago, and I’ve been involved for 11 years. … I steered [the chorus] … more in the direction of musical concerts while making great, fun music along the way. [LagunaTunes] … wanted to be a chorus that did not require experience to attend; we wanted to come together and sing. The chorus was started by three amazing ladies, Roxanna [Ward], Pat [Kollenda] and Lisa [Morrice]. One of the most fun things for us to do in the community is just get together. We sometimes do Saturday brunches before performances, which is a great way for us to get to know each other and really be a community.
LBM: How has the chorus changed over the years?
BG: The biggest change has been that [the singers] … used to hold their [music sheet] … folders in their hands while they sang, and now everyone memorizes the music. [The singers] … rose to the occasion. They used rehearsal tracks at home to practice. We have also always done some movement, … but we added more choreography [in the past few years].
LBM: How large is the chorus?
BG: There are about 60 members. We are always open to new folks.
LBM: What genre of music do you most often perform?
BG: We do all different types of music/genres. At our [fall] performance last year, we did rock and ’80s: There was a combination of ABBA, rock ’n’ roll, pop and R&B. We have also done a concert around The Beatles. [The chorus] focuses more on pop and contemporary music. As a community chorus, it’s pretty amazing what … [we’re] able to pull off.
LBM: Does the chorus have any upcoming performances scheduled?
BG: We do two performances a year. Our next concert is Nov. 19 at Laguna Beach High School. [It] will be a pre-holiday concert—gearing up for the holidays, finding your holiday mojo, etc.
LBM: What do you most enjoy about being in this group?
BG: Personally, making music is always an amazing thing, especially when you’re able to pull random people together and form a bond. You really create these connections with people that you sing around. It can be beautiful, haunting, expressing, uplifting or energizing. It can be all of those emotions. It’s really great [singing] … all together. It’s very fulfilling for me.
LBM: How did you celebrate the 20th anniversary?
BG: The singers [reflected] on their favorite songs of the last 20 years … [for our recent anniversary concert]. It was a lot of fun and we sang a lot of uplifting songs. We also used a band[, which is rare]. Our band guys are freelance players.
LBM: What do you hope for the future of the chorus?
BG: To backtrack a bit, especially for singing through COVID-19, it was a horrible thing for us. One thing that we do is get together and sing, and we couldn’t do that. We did recorded video [concerts], but we couldn’t meet in person. So when … [the COVID outbreaks subsided] and it opened up again this past year, we had to work to draw people out again and have lots of practices. [In the future,] … I hope we can continue to expand as an organization. We have a wonderful board that works diligently to make sure we can put on great shows and have multiple concerts. Hopefully we can grow our audience and [number of] singers.