Clef Hangers bring the joy of song: Los Altos resident leads choir on quest to coax smiles

Courtesy of Carol Park
The Peninsula Clef Hangers are set to embark on another season of entertaining local seniors.

The Peninsula Clef Hangers, a women’s chorus of approximately 40 volunteers, perform to bring smiles to the faces of seniors during their December and April holiday concerts at retirement facilities and nursing homes in the Los Altos area.

Directed by Los Altos resident Joan Sprague since 1991, the Peninsula Clef Hangers will soon restart rehearsals and are recruiting new members. Members must be available for Tuesday evening rehearsals in Menlo Park. No prior choral experience or audition is necessary.

The choir was formed 40 years ago when a group of community volunteers wanted to bring entertainment and holiday joy to the senior community. Some chorus members are musically trained, some are not. The group rehearses for 10 weeks between September and December, performs approximately 15 concerts in two weeks and then breaks before renewing practice for the April concert series. Each concert season finishes with a party, and the singers gather for several potluck suppers during their May to September vacation.

Members of the choir sing its praises.

During a performance of Christmas tunes at a convalescent home, a silent resident (due to a stroke) began singing along. When tears rolled down his cheeks, his wife cried with joy, said Los Altos soprano Helene Hills. In another instance, a comatose senior started tapping her feet.

The choral performances trigger profound emotion in the singers as well as their audiences.

“It’s a feel-good thing to go and sing for our audiences,” said alto Margo Harris, a Los Altos resident. “A lot of the seniors don’t have family or anyone visiting them. The music talks to them.”

Another Los Altos choir member, Mary Ann Balkenhol, recalled that musical performances were the highlight of her mother’s days at an assisted-living facility.

Balkenhol said joining the Peninsula Clef Hangers has helped her handle loneliness and sadness. After her husband died, she realized that she needed to expand her world.

“Though I have only an average voice, I love to sing,” she said. “I saw the information about the Clef Hangers in the Town Crier and decided to give it a try. I like filling one evening a week – the time I feel most lonely. I particularly like the fact that the commitment is not so all-encompassing as to make me feel guilty if I miss a rehearsal or performance. I enjoy our potlucks and the socializing before choir begins.”

For more information, call Teri Waldman at 964-9127, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit


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