The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
LOG Editor 

Singing lifts seniors spirits


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Christine Werner and Louise Henley Nickson, (standing), and Jody Tuck and Maureen Sheehan (seated) enjoy singing with Sue McClure Monday at the Seward Senior Center.

Five ladies sway to and fro as they belt out the words to "I'm Back in the Saddle Again," an old Gene Autry tune, smiles animate their faces as Sue McClure accompanies them on the senior center piano. "Out where a friend is a friend," they sing, all heart. Just a half hour of singing these old popular songs of the '20s-'50s, with a few '60s tunes mixed in, can lift their spirits and make the whole day brighter.

"Ridin' the range once more," they continue, "Totin' my old .44." At those words, a few women involuntarily shape their hands into pistols at their sides as the famed singing cowboy may have done. "Where you sleep out every night, and the only law is right, back in the saddle again."

The conclusion of each song elicits a few giggles or comments of approval.

The singers may have to sing a little higher than their vocal chords can comfortably reach, and the lyrics may tend to be corny and harken back to images of a very different era before they were born, or that existed only in the songwriter's imagination, but that's partly what makes them so enjoyable.

"It's a cool way to start the day," said Jody Tuck. She, and her friend Maureen Sheehan are among the six to eight regulars who join Sue's Sing on Monday mornings at the senior center. A handful also sing in the Community Choir that McClure runs.

Sue's Sing started out as a Christmas Carol sing-along about a year ago, McClure said. But when one of the seniors requested it become a regular thing, she was happy to oblige. She firmly believes in the joy of music, and its capacity to bring people together.

"They enjoy the camaraderie and the melodies, and I think its good mental exercise, too, because they're learning the words," she said.

These days McClure plays the piano with a broken right arm in a purple cast, unwilling to let a little injury like that deter her from her passion. In fact, according to her physician it'll help the healing process, provided that she doesn't overdo it, she said.

There's a generous collection copied for the singers to choose from; "Down in the Valley," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "Beautiful Brown Eyes," "Amazing Grace," "In the Jailhouse Now," "Second-Hand Rose," and even "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Each elicits individual memories of the places they were sung, heard or danced to, or the people they were with.

"When I was little I used to know the words to all those songs," chuckles Christina Werner. "I think it's a lot of fun, and we get a lot of laughs. We should be getting 15 laughs a day."

Although she was born back in the early 1930s, people were still singing the '20s songs, which is how they still know them, Louise Henley Nickson explains.

"I just love it! As Jody just said, it's a cool way to start the day, it really is, and the memories come flooding back, and you feel younger."

All are welcome to join them most Mondays from 11:30 a.m. till noon, and stay for lunch, but the Nov. 25 session has been cancelled.


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