The Over 60s Are Alive, Well and Singing

Posted by on Sep 03, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Older people are often invisible in our young, fast society, and isolation, loneliness and physical ailments often accompany the autumn of life. So working at the Speculator led me into an area of life that I may not otherwise have got to experience.

My lovely ‘over-the-garden-fence’ neighbour, Stuart Wetherall and his equally charming wife Lois, had invited me to the monthly Friendship Lunch at Holy Trinity Church on Calliope Rd, run for the older people in the parish. Knowing my interest in music (Stuart often hears me singing while he’s gardening, poor man), he thought I might enjoy seeing this month’s guests, the 60s Up Choir, in action.

Now I have to come clean here and confess that Young @ Heart, Stephen Walker’s unforgettable film about the American singing group with an average age of 80, is one of my favourite films. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary following the lead-up to a concert given by the choir, and the fun, excitement, trials and tribulations that accompany the process.

One of the more unusual features of the group is that they tend to favour music by The Clash, Sonic Youth, David Bowie and Talking Heads, rather than the more traditional fare normally associated with the older generation. Needless to say, they pull it off spectacularly. If you haven’t seen the film, go and get it from the video shop. It’s an inspirational story.

However, I wasn’t expecting 70s and 80s rock classics from the 60s Up Choir, and I had been forewarned by Stuart that today’s concert featured ‘Songs of Old Britain’, so I had an idea of what might be on offer.

When we arrived, the sight of the choir decked out in Union Jack flag hats, red, white and blue accessories and bowlers confirmed that I might be treated to a selection of the songs my grandparents sang to me as a child in England. And so it was. Choirmaster Quin led the group through approximately twenty great old singalongs including It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, I’ve Got Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts, Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner and many other old favourites, enthusiastically accompanied by the assembled guests.

I was lucky enough to be seated next to a particular character: Ivan ‘The Terrible’ who decided I would be the ideal recipient of his rendition of his favourite song Daisy, Daisy. I can confirm that he’s got a good pair of lungs for a man of 95. He’s a mere stripling, however, compared to the oldest guest present Bessy, aged 103. Ivan is a big fan of the Auckland Supercity and thinks he would be ideal as Mayor.  He’s got my vote.

After notable solos from Tex singing English Country Garden resplendent in a topper with a big red feather, Quin (a stirring rendition of Jerusalem) and Beryl, who put on a great performance as Burlington Bertie despite turning 90 only days before, the concert drew to an end, and we were treated to a great lunch by the wonderful workers of Holy Trinity.

The enjoyment and fellowship I saw at this event was a highly encouraging sign that the Devonport Community takes care of and values all of its residents, and says a lot for the volunteers and helpers who give up their time to make such events happen. It was a reminder to me that a society can be judged by how it treats its old folks – my impression is that Devonport is doing well in this area.

So don’t forget folks, our elderly residents helped make Devo what it is today. Make it Random Acts of Kindness Day every day and give them a smile. You never know, if it’s Ivan he might even give you a song!

Stuart and Lois (who celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary last week) kindly drove me home.

I don’t know what all the folks had planned for the afternoon (although I suspect Ivan was off to work on his Mayoral campaign) but I’d had far too much fun.

I was ready for a little lie down.

Postscript: Speculady would like to thank Stuart and Lois Wetherall, all the helpers and guests at Holy Trinity, the 60s Up choir and Ivan the Terrible for a cracking time

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