Years ago, (yes, I am reminiscing again) some musicians came together and began playing a little music in the shade of the 5th wheel. Gordon Hunt had hears that Joe Masse and I (with our matching Yamaha keyboards) were playing music together, so he came along to see if he could “play along”. We assured him he was welcome…and soon we had vocals as well as tunes as well as vocals pouring out of our keyboards. And of course, he brought that fantastic violin with him.
We began playing together in February 1999…and pretty soon had a crowd of people coming to listen when we had our “band practices”. Joe thought we should be moving the music indoors in case the desert dust was going to mess up our instruments. He got us a gig (yep, our first one!) in December 1999, as we played at a Prayer Breakfast over at the Yuma Proving Grounds Army base. That went over quite well, so he began looking for another place for us to play on the base.
We had our first big “Band Practice” in January 2000 at Palm Gardens, where Sargeant Pepperoni’s Pizza was sold…sharing space with the base library. We put out the word on the CB and put up little advertisements…and 82 people came from the desert, lugging their chairs, for the program. At the end of our music program, Hardluck Guy and Gal came to us and wanted to know when we were going to do anther program. Eek! We had not thought about doing any more.
So we scrambled together some more songs, and February 15, we presented another music program (or band practice!). We could not use the “movie room” like we had before, so Joe managed to get a key and permission for us to begin using the old Movie Theater, located near the Bowling alley. Then we were in tall cotton, that’s for sure.
Had a stage, and seating for 340 people and people were thronging to our programs. Gordon did such a great job researching history of the songs and composers, Joe improvised in adding chords and trills and arpeggios…I sat there calmly playing the music I saw in front of me.
We weren’t really running competition with the Sunday afternoon fiddlers…just were giving more of a variety of music for the people to enjoy. We had sacred songs, classical songs, old standards, Christmas music, as little Latin music to get people involved. I remember Driller kept hollering that he wanted to hear Malaguena. We would simple replay that we did not take requests. As the years progressed, with 2 or 3 main programs performed each year, we continued to entertain everyone who came to listen. And December 2002, we presented Driller with a rousing rendition of Malaguena! He was thrilled. Oh and we had nearly every seat filled in that movie theater…and no one left during intermission!
We did manage to put out one CD of our music…as Big Fo0t (John Roger Martin) brought his tape laying machinery. I remember how when we played Walkin’ in the Sunshine, out popped Bigfoot and Blondie (Sally Hunt) strolling down in front of the audience, with huge sunglasses on. We all cracked up on that stunt.
Our last performance was, sadly, at the memorial service of Nyla Dossett, late February 2003. Then we all pretty much went our separate ways. It was a fun few years, and I think we brought a lot of entertainment to the desert people. I have to admit, I miss it! Lots of work, but we got a lot out of it too. We never charged admission, never charged for the CDs, a gift from us to you.
Gordon and I did a few “Two Penny” concerts when Joe was out of town. And he and I played in front of TV cameras a few times, one of which was at the 35th anniversary of the Christian Center Church. He and I still play during the preludes at the Christian Center Church when he and Sally are out here, working on the Cantata music. It has been great fun. Thank you to Joe Masse and Gordon Hunt…and to Sally, who kept us all under control at practices!!
A brief bio of the “Three Pennies”
They were Joe Masse of New Hampshire, Karen Martin of Oregon, and Gordon Hunt of British Columbia. They all came from similar backgrounds, starting their music studies at age 6. Karen on piano and Gordon on violin were studying in the classical style of music. Joe was working on the technical aspect of music with concentration on chords and scales. Joe eventually turned to the saxophone for more study and became a member of the US Marine Corps Band, working his way up to conductor during a period of 16 years.
Gordon studied violin and French horn at the University of British Columbia. He was a TV and radio announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting System for 35 years before coming here for the winter months.
Karen studied at the Guam Academy of Music, as well as taking private lessons in Oregon. She played the organ for several years and has played the keyboard for the past 12 years.