Though she has been a familiar figure at Skyland for 25 years, Margretta Dollard, everyone's favorite choir director, is like many of us an East Coast transplant, happy to be here. Margretta turns 95 May 28, and Skyland will celebrate the event with a special potluck, sponsored by the Deacons, on May 17.
Margretta has sung in the choir since she arrived at Skyland in 1977, and she has sung in choir wherever she has gone since she was a child. She lived then in Washintgton D.C., the fifth generation of her family to do so, and began taking piano lessons at age 9. She left home during WW2, when she applied for a government job and was sent to Florida to become a cryptographer.
There, Margretta says, she met her late husband Neil, then an intelligence worker but later a pilot whom she married on his acceptance into the Air Corps and traveled with while he was training at several southern bases.
"Much," says Margretta, "to my parents' chagrin."
Chagrin or no, the couple moved to California after the war, at first to Palo Alto, whence Neil flew as a navigator for Pan Am. After a few years of this, they fled the suburbs for the more rural Monte Sereno; there they found a three-acre place which was their home for 25 years. That's when they moved up the mountain and Margretta found Skyland.
She still lives in the mountains, with her daughter and son-in-law nearby and several chickens and farm animals sharing their life.
"Every place we had gone, I had found the church with the best music - sometimes Methodist, sometimes Congregational," she says. "Elizabeth Elbon was directing the choir at Skyland. She started it; she lived in Los Gatos but her best friend lived on the mountain, and they were both musical. They found people up here and started a really good choir. It was big - must have been over 20 people when I started."
Margretta has become known for her lively manner of singing while conducting the choir. She's proud of their work.
"We try to do a variety of music, so if you don't like what you hear one Sunday, perhaps the next we will really please you. We're very congenial and happy and welcome anyone to join us."
In fact, she adds in a familiar request, "We can always use new singing members; men are particularly welcome, for balance."
Men, women and children are all particularly welcome at the celebration for Margretta May 17.