June 17, 2009

Young at Heart Singers just wanna have fun

As published in The Erin Advocate

I love coffee. I love tea. I love the Java Jive and it loves me. Coffee and tea and the jivin' and me. A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup – boy!

Do you know what I mean? If you do, and probably even if you don't, you would probably have some fun if you dropped in for a session with Erin's Young at Heart Singers. They meet for an hour on Mondays at 10 am, in the hall at Burns Presbyterian.

Oh, slip me a slug from that wonderful mug, and I'll cut a rug till I'm snug in the jug. A slice of onion and a raw one, draw one. Waiter waiter percolator.

Written by Milton Drake and Ben Oakland, and recorded in 1940 by The Ink Spots, Java Jive is one of those songs that's all about rhythm and fun with words, making it perfect for the Young at Heart participants. Inspired by the movie Young@Heart, in which a group of seniors becomes famous for their rock and pop concerts, Enid Acton started the group last March, and recruited singer Kim Pearson and pianist Pam White to help lead the sing-along sessions.

"Music can be a good reason to get up in the morning," said Enid. "In a rural community you can do a lot that you can't do in the city. It's really inspiring – there's some great talent."

Kim has quite a talent for harmony. She can sing "upon the roof" with the sopranos and "down in the dungeon" with the guys in the bass section, and knows when to get singers to "put that little 'whoop' in there". I sang with her in an a cappella group back the 1990s, along with my wife Jean, Peter Olsen and Rick McLarnon – we sang at the Fall Fair one year.

I didn't know what to expect when I showed up last Monday, so I brought my guitar and copies of lyrics from some folky 1960s tunes ("Today" by the New Christy Minstrels and "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" by Gale Garnett). Fortunately, I meet the criteria for participation:

"You don't have to be a good singer, just have a passion for singing," said Kim. You can join any time, and you don't have to come every week. There are usually about 20 people. Call Enid at 519-833-2869 if you are interested. Although she had seniors in mind when she started the group, there are a number of younger participants as well.

Kim led us through some golden oldies, like Sentimental Journey (Doris Day's first #1 hit, in 1945, also covered by Ringo Starr in 1970) and The Happy Wanderer (written by Friedrich-Wilhelm M├Âller, and a hit for the German war orphans of the Obernkirchen Children's Choir in 1953).

Of course, singing is good for your health, both physical and mental. It gets your heart pumping and seems to circulate endorphins, like a natural opiate – no wonder people get hooked on the activity. Music can have unique benefits for the brain, from early growth in infants to the rousing of memories in the elderly.

Singing boosts the immune system, reduces stress and depression, improves posture and lung capacity and gives you more energy. Unlike many medications, there are no nasty side effects.

Singing is also a communal activity. There's a tingling sensation and a feeling of bonding that happens when voices join together to make a sound that could never be made by one person alone. Check out Young@Heart on YouTube. If you're free on a Monday morning, give the Erin version a try.

I love java sweet and hot. Whoops! Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot. Shoot me the pot, and I'll pour me a shot. A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!