A troupe of about 35 singers who reside at Warm Hearth Village are proving that cherished musical talents can still be rewarding, even in the golden years.
At a recent Monday practice, the singers gathered for their introduction to a four-part arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner. Choir director David Jones, who is also assistant administrator and activity director at Warm Hearth, met with the singers at the Karr Center.
The room was already arranged with chairs in a square configuration around a baby grand piano.
They focused on practicing the National Anthem so they could be ready to perform at a recent celebration of games and hot dogs that Warm Hearth called a pep rally and homecoming. The singers were on the same bill with the Marching Virginians of Virginia Tech.
With many members in their 90s, Warm Hearth Singers practice every Monday and Wednesday.
Jones gave out the music and started rehearsal by getting the basses to try their part. The tenors were next, then the altos and finally the sopranos. It was apparent that most of the singers were skilled at reading music.
Jones said he had copied the music to increase the size of the print.
“It gets high here,” Jones warned, but not a singer missed his or her note. “Hold your music up so you can sing strong, he reminded the group.
“Yawl know the melody, don’t you?” Jones joked with the sopranos.
When the whole group had sung the song several times together, Jones announced, “It sounds good.”
It was on to a new song, a medley of old standards, and Marion Kelso rose to give out the new music while Jones collected copies of “Star Spangled Banner.”
The medley included bits from songs by composer Jerome Kern, including “Look for the Silver Lining,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “All the Things You Are,” and others.
The basses took the melody on “Old Man River.”
Jones said he wasn’t familiar with one of the songs, “I’ve Told Every Little Star.”
“That’s ‘cause you’re young,” Kelso joked.
“Singing just lifts me into the music,” said Jeanne Sullivan, who resides at the Showalter Center at Warm Hearth. Being able to sing with the chorus “means a lot to me,” she added.
Donna Staples, an alto, has been singing with the group since she moved into Showalter four years ago. “Music is my life,” she said.
Don Chaloupka, a bass, has played piano and sung in the past. He has an apartment on the Warm Hearth campus. He advised that musicians and singers should continue with their hobbies, “as long as you enjoy it.”
Dot Whitaker is from North Carolina, where she sang in a children’s choir and continued singing in high school and adulthood. Now that she lives in a Warm Hearth townhome, she can still indulge in her hobby.
“I love to sing,” she said.
“David is so talented and so patient,” said Julie Lewis, a soprano.
At 3:55 on Mondays and Wednesdays, singers can be seen walking in pairs and small groups beneath the canopy that leads to the Karr Center. They are enriching their lives by lifting their voices in four-part harmony.