Songs raise spirits, funds for singer with cancer in Sequim

SEQUIM — More than one member of the audience wiped away a tear as Denise Graham sang.

And though the aria she chose — from Puccini’s opera “Suor Angelica” — is an exquisite piece, it wasn’t necessarily the thing that caused people to weep during Sunday afternoon’s Peninsula Singers concert at the Trinity United Methodist Church.

Graham, 43, is undergoing treatment for metastatic cancer, and her fellow Peninsula Singers gathered Sunday for a performance to raise money to help with her living expenses.

Together, the singers unfurled soulful renditions of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” — and then maestro Dewey Ehling brought Graham onto the stage.

A soprano, she’s been studying with voice teacher Linda Grubb, Ehling said.

Standing ovation

Graham’s voice poured out strong and sweet, and when she finished, the room rose in a standing ovation.

After a few more songs — “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story,” “All I Ask of You” from “Phantom of the Opera” — a special guest stepped up for another solo.

Carol Swarbrick Dries, a Dungeness resident who has performed in productions from Broadway to Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, told the crowd that when Ehling let her know about the Graham benefit, she wanted to participate — and had a particular song in mind. “Fortunately, he didn’t make me beg,” Dries said.

Then, with no need of a microphone, she belted out Irving Berlin’s “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” sparking another standing ovation. Dries also introduced a couple who were her houseguests last week: Singer John Davidson and his wife, Rhonda, who are about to go out on an international concert tour. The couple stood up as the audience applauded.

Sunday’s benefit raised well over $5,000 from ticket sales and donations — exceeding the group’s hopes, said Peninsula Singers President Valerie Lape.

Contributions can still be made to the Denise Graham Fund at any First Federal branch, or mailed to DGF, c/o Peninsula Singers, 325 E. Washington St., No. 135, Sequim, WA 98382.

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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