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LI choirs, bands to join ahead of the holiday season

Gabriella Black, 22, of Hempstead, auditions for the

Gabriella Black, 22, of Hempstead, auditions for the Mineola Choral Society on Sept. 6, 2016. Credit: Johnny Milano

If you’ve ever wanted to get up on stage and sing your heart out or play an instrument with dozens of other equally enthusiastic musicians, now might be the time to join a choral or musical group.

Playing requires simply a love of the music and the instrument, says Mark Flanzraich, 68, of New Hyde Park, principal oboist for the Long Island Senior Pops.

“We take people with various levels of skill, depending on the position,” says Flanzraich, noting that his orchestra is looking for a second bassoonist, a fourth horn and strings. “There are never enough strings. We can always put an extra string player in.”

At a recent audition session for the Mineola Choral Society’s 2016-17 season, a few eager men and women belted out “ahs” in ascending scales, accompanied on piano by director Thomas Jones. There were jitters.

“Even though I’ve sung for a long time, I got nervous,” Adrienne Camesas admits afterward. A longtime member of the now-defunct Waldorf Choral Society, which had been in Garden City, Camesas, 59, of West Islip, hadn’t auditioned for decades.

Other former Waldorf singers find themselves in similar straits, albeit with varying degrees of the willies.

“It went well. I’m joining this chorus!” Norma Mindell, 77, of West Hempstead, declares soon after performing a soulful rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

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Joining another chorus was a no-brainer for Mindell.

“We wouldn’t know what to do on Monday nights,” she says, referring to nights slated for rehearsals.

THE AUDITIONS

Some — but not all — community choirs and bands hold auditions for new members.

A college music major, Gabriella Black, 22, of Hempstead, wants to join the Mineola group to put her musical chops to productive use.

Before Black utters a note, Jones chats amiably with her, then casually puts her through her paces. Her voice, somewhat hesitant at first, gradually grows louder, and soon resounds with complete control and abundant confidence.

The verdict: Black has a very impressive two-octave (or more) range and a nice open sound. She’s in.

COMMITMENT AND FUN

Camesas, who works as a cardiologist by day, met her husband, Larry, 62, performing in “Guys and Dolls” at Columbia’s Bard Hall Players while they studied at the university. They, too, were long-standing Waldorf members.

“It’s a commitment we’ve made for years,” she says of their joint choral work. “It’s important. You have to have something that keeps you sane.”

Even the rehearsals are a wonderful part of the experience, says George Graf, 72, of East Williston, who with his wife, Diane, 79, have been members of the Mineola troupe for more than 30 years and board members for much of that time.

Now retired, George recalls sometimes heading to rehearsals reluctantly after a full day’s work. Then, the magic of the music took over.

“By the time you get out of there, you feel like you have a new life,” he says.

IN HARMONY

Singing is a lifelong passion for Paul Ziebarth, 48, of East Northport, who is also a member of the Huntington Men’s Chorus.

“I continue to do it because it was one of the first things I was praised for doing at school,” Ziebarth says. “I seem to have a talent for it.”

For Patrick Hannan, 55, of Huntington, president of the Huntington Men’s Chorus, one of the most obvious differences is in the sound.

“There’s a trade-off between the variety of sounds when you include women, but there’s a strength of sounds when you only have men. The lower registers really have a different effect. It’s a little bit more bold.”

The all-men’s chorus provides members with a communal bond, Hannan says.

“We share a lot of values: We love our wives, our families, our country, our girlfriends. And, we love great music. It’s good to share that with other guys.”

WHERE TO JOIN

Mineola Choral Society

Rehearses 8-10 p.m. Mondays in Garden City Park.

DUES $100 per year

INFO 516-294-1175, mineolachoralsociety.org

Huntington Men’s Chorus

Rehearses 7:45-10 p.m. Wednesdays in Huntington.

DUES $100 per year

INFO 631-462-7464, huntingtonmenschorus.com

Long Island Sound Chorus of Sweet Adelines International

Women’s choir rehearses 7-10 p.m. Wednesdays in Hampton Bays.

DUES $35 per month

INFO 631-267-6502, longislandsoundchorus.org

Long Island Senior Pops

Rehearses Wednesdays 9:30 a.m.-noon in Wantagh. Despite its name, the band is open to all ages.

DUES None

INFO 516-414-1831, seniorpops.org

Island Symphony Orchestra

Open to people of all ages interested in classical music. Rehearses 9:30 a.m.-noon Thursdays in Bay Shore.

DUES $60 per year

INFO 516-822-3728, islandsymphony.org

East End Arts New Horizons Band

Rehearses 5-8 p.m. Thursdays in Riverhead. Must be 50 years or older.

DUES $300 per year

INFO 631-369-2171, email education@eastendarts.org

30th annual Harvest Gospel Choir

Rehearses 6-9 p.m. Saturdays Oct. 15 through Nov. 12 in Riverhead.

DUES None

INFO 631-727-0900, email info@eastendarts.org

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