Music is a pretty amazing thing – for me, it’s probably my one true passion.
The day after my father died, my ex and I went to see our favorite band, NRBQ; they were playing in Woodstock, NY, very close to my parents’ place in Poughkeepsie, NY, and I knew that it would be a few sure hours of pleasure/relaxation during what was to be a trying week before we had his memorial service. I couldn’t tell you what songs they played that night, and I sure didn’t feel like dancing, but I remember sitting at a table with my vodka tonic and just letting the music wash over me. At times that night, the music actually made me feel happy, and I was reminded that in spite of my sadness about my father, life goes on, and there would be happiness ahead.
A similar event occurred after my mother’s memorial service. My mother had been a member of a local chorus, the Camerata Chorale, for over 20 years (I had been a member for several of my high school and college-age years), and I asked them to sing several pieces at her memoral service. Later that evening, the group had a concert of their own. My mom had been planning on going to the performance, pretty-much come hell or high water, and I had told folks in the group that I really wanted to try and make it to the concert. However, once my mother’s service was over, my adrenaline level just dropped. Still, my aunt and uncle and I made it to the concert and I was so glad that I did. Music, once again, proved itself to be a healing power for me.
Tonight I went to the fabulous Cape Cinema in Dennis with my friends Chef Tony and Kate the Weaver tonight to see the documentary “Young at Heart“, about the Young at Heart chorus of Northampton, MA and their preparations of new songs for a 2006 concert tour. What a fantastic, well-told film. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, that had me laughing heartily at times, grinning from ear to ear at others, and still others weeping until tears were running down my face all the way to my neck.
The Young at Heart chorus is a group of 70+ year olds who sing various rock/pop/soul songs. Many members of the group are in their 80s, some are in their 90s. With folks in that age range, they have to deal with all sorts of health issues, which are covered in the film. Some are kind of funny (one group of members carpools to rehearsals in a tiny little car with paint scrapes on the sides, always driven by Lenny, not because he’s a good driver – he’s not – but because he’s the only one of the three of them who can still see to drive) some poignant (one retired member comes back to sing a song in the local Northampton concert and has an oxygen tank with him that adds an additional “percussion sound” to the song during his performance), some positively devastating (during rehearsals, two members die).
There was one sequence that I thought was just wonderful, where the group is performing at a local prison. At first, during an upbeat song, we see lots of smiles and laughter from the inmates, but it’s not clear whether or not they are laughing at the old folks singing. However, by the end of the peformance, when the group dedicates their final song, Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”, to a member of the chorus who died the night before, there are shots of the prisoners crying, and after the song, they meet the chorus with hugs.
What comes through in the film is the spirit of the chorus and the power of music: they’re willing to try anything, and they have a real “the show must go on” attitude, and performing is a catharsis for them.
By all means, see it – but have plenty of hankies at your disposal.