Musicans enhance holiday spirit at Free Christmas Dinner

Musicans enhance holiday spirit at Free Christmas DinnerBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

Since the beginning of the Knights of Columbus free Christmas meals a group of musical friends have been filling the dining hall with the sounds of Christmas.

A pianist, a flutist, and a guitar player/vocalist take turns with musical friends joining. Pianist Cathy Douglas keeps a stack of Christmas music books on hand saying, “ I just play through all these books - just Christmas - some secular, some sacred.”

This year Douglas will be covering flutist Deb Vite’s time slot. Joining Douglas for a short time will be her son on French Horn, a vocalist, a flutist, and she says she’s “roped in” a violinist. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Cote closes out the day with his daughter joining to sing Christmas carols.

The free meal is offered on Christmas Day, December 25, at St. Ann Church Parish Hall, 446 West Church Avenue, from 12noon until 4pm. For home delivery of the meal call Larry Riendeu at(760) 608-3781 on Christmas Day between 11am and 3pm.

Since about 1992 or 1993 there has been a free Christmas meal for the community. It started on base at the All Faith Chapel and eventually was taken on by the Knights of Columbus. It is not merely a charity event, it is a social event. Douglas tells us, “One of the things that I noticed about the dinner, and that gives me a great deal of pleasure, is in addition to those that need the dinner, it’s also become a place for those that are lonely. A lot of older people who don’t have family here. People from the church come and sit, see their friends, and they listen to music. It’s a way to spend Christmas which would be very empty at home.

It’s a good thing for this town. There’s a lot of people that come and work there. They help serve; they help cook. They aren’t part of the Catholic Church, they just like to participate.”

Douglas has an extensive background in music, “I started playing piano when I was nine, which is little older than many, and I have a Bachelor of Music Degree and a Master of Music Degree in Applied Piano. I taught at Cerro Coso for a number of years. I also taught privately for many, many years and after my husband retired, I retired.”

Her home has a lovely Piano Studio. “I did all my teaching there. One of the reasons we bought this house was that I could be in that room and my students could come and go and not come into the house. My kids still had the free run of the house.”

The centerpiece is her piano, “ A 1915 Steinway. My father bought it for me in 1960 and I’ve hauled it back and forth across the country three or four times. It’s my pride and joy; it’s a wonderful instrument to play on.”

While Douglas plays at the free Christmas meal, her husband volunteers in the kitchen. He is her biggest fan and every year insists upon a private Christmas concert in their lovely Piano Studio.

Laura Austin Photo: Pianist Cathy Douglas with her beloved 1915 Steinway in her Piano Studio.

Story First Published: 2021-12-24