Senior-to-senior program shares love of singing
Gaithersburg resident Jean Mitchell beamed a Broadway smile and shook her shoulders, a twinkle in her eye and look of nostalgia on her face as she performed for and with her peers.
She and her husband, Ed, have always shared a love of singing, she said. During the 1970s, they led a folk guitar group at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.
Several years ago they found a like-minded group at the Gaithersburg Upcounty Senior Center who love to sing and want to share their joy.
The Gaithersburg Upcounty Singing Seniors, a diverse group of seniors perform throughout the year at senior centers, nursing homes, retirement communities and assisted care facilities.
"We still want to be of service to people and this is a way of doing it," said Mitchell, who declined to give her age. She was one of four soloists helping to perform "Frankie and Johnny," during a lunchtime concert Thursday at The Oaks at Olde Towne. The popular American tune dating to 1904 is about two lovers, including a woman named Frankie angry after "he done her wrong."
Residents of the senior home on Chestnut Street enjoyed lunch during the show. Some sang along.
"I don't remember a time when I wasn't singing, from when I was a little kid," said Isador Bronstein, 93, of Gaithersburg, who performed. "I know all of these songs by heart and it's a fun thing to do. I'm afraid I'm getting too old for it though."
Bronstein sang a solo alongside Mitchell in an alto that belied traces of a New York accent. He joined the 25-member Singing Seniors group after his wife, Sarah, died, Bronstein said. For years, the couple had sung together in choirs.
The merrymakers perform a different program every quarter, said Betty Sewell of Gaithersburg. At 71, Sewell is the group's director, emcee and pianist. The Singing Seniors have put on about 30 performances under her direction the last three years, she said. She picks a theme and integrates songs from earlier eras.
Thursday's performance had a theme "Guys and Dolls" and included tunes from "Ain't She Sweet," written in 1926 by Milton Ager with words by Jack Yellen and first performed by Bing Crosby, to "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?" a 1902 song composed by Hughie Cannon, who is also credited with creating "Frankie and Johnny."
"Beautiful, wonderful, it was nice to hear these old-time songs," said Earl Waters, 96, a resident of The Oaks. "It does a lot to you," said Waters, who sang along to a tune or two. "I recognized all of them…. Being 95, you can remember a whole lot."
Waters said he used to sing at Emory Grove United Methodist Church, where he is a member.
The Singing Seniors open every program with the chorus to a Christian song written in 1923 by Elton M. Roth that Sewell said expresses the group's love of singing.
"In my heart there rings a melody," sang a chorus of altos and sopranos.