Seniors Make Music

Previous Post Dancing for Seniors

Music is a fun way to strengthen your mind and your body. First let me introduce you to the ill wind that nobody blows good.

Perth Scottish Pipe Bandcity of Perth, Police Bagpipe BandI don’t think they would allow a retiree to join the police pipe band. I suspect that an elder would faint if he or she tried to play the bagpipes for the first time. If you already play the bagpipes you have powerful lungs. You might even have good enough lungs to be a politician.

You need good muscles and coordination to march through the town as you play the bagpipes or the big base drum. I watched the drummer lift his enormous drum and lock it into place on his chest. It didn’t look easy. I wonder how much it weighs.

Barbershop Singing

city of Perth, W. AustraliaYou can sing barbershop if you can learn a tune and adjust your singing to match the person standing next to you. If you have watched a video of champion barbershop singers, you may think that you can’t somersault in midair while singing like they do. That’s fine – neither can any of the barbershoppers in this picture. What they all have in common is the ability to listen to the other singers, and sing in harmony without drowning out the other singers.

While you won’t be asked to do gymnastics as you sing, you will be expected to step forward and back and sway from side to side and make gestures to express the emotions of the song. You will never stand to attention through a song like a choir. You will memorize everything so that you can have eye contact with the audience. Don’t worry; you can learn words easily with a tune. How many old songs do you know without ever learning them?

This group is what is facetiously called a VLQ which stands for Very Large Quartet. Some quartets don’t have four voices with powerful projection. It is important to match up the volume for close harmony. So they simply double-up on some parts to get the balance that they need. The whole chorus doesn’t have the luxury of the exact ratios of four leads, three bases, two baritones and one tenor. So it is the job of the music director to juggle the voices that he has present (influenza stops tenors singing for several weeks) for a good balance. A powerful projection voice has to go to the back of the risers. But it’s not as simple as that. The job of the director is not easy.

If you would like to join them, go to their weekly rehearsal. The chorus will probably give you an easy test to see how high or low you can sing, and suggest which of the four parts would suit you best. Then they will give you a couple of songs to learn. Some weeks later they’ll get a small group to sing with you to practice. When they think you have practiced enough, they will give you the chance to join the Men’s Barbershop Harmony Chorus. This chorus calls itself “Westcoast Chordsmen.”

Ladies Barbershoppers

The ladies choruses are in the “Sweet Adelines” association. The are much better than the men, and the Perth groups are so good that they don’t enter every national competition so as to give the other choruses a chance. When they enter, they usually win gold for the chorus, and the quartets win gold, silver, and bronze medals. That doesn’t please the other competitors!

Be prepared for strict discipline if you join the Perth Sweet Adelines. They obviously can’t meet their high standards if anybody is lazy or careless in their movements.

Other Musicians

hand bell pealersIn my last post I showed you the musicians sustaining the stick dancers. There was an old man with clapping sticks, one man with a drum and some variety of wind instrument, and two men playing two kinds of “squeeze boxes.”

The hand bell pealers on the left are enjoying a form of exercise that even the most feeble elders can manage. If you have seen church bell pealers getting dragged into the air when they make mistakes you might feel safer with hand bells.

Music is a wonderful exercise. If you are tone deaf, learn to play the didgeridoo. It strengthens your lungs and has been shown to fight emphysema. Build up to it gradually, and sit on the floor for your first practices. That way, if you faint from breathing too deeply, you won’t have far to fall.

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