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On Sunday, Aug. 19, Via presented the internationally acclaimed Young@Heart Chorus as a benefit concert at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder. This was not just another fundraising event, however. Via brought Young@Heart to the community to convey a message of hope and of healthy joyful aging.
Young@Heart brings an eclectic mix of punk, indie and classic rock songs to the stage, but with a totally different feeling. Something real, authentic and honest transpired when Chorus member Helen Boston, age 82, (and one of several African American Chorus members) sang “I am an old woman named after my mother,” the opening lyrics of “Angel From Montgomery,” a country standard written by songwriter John Prine, and popularized in 1974 by then 25-year-old Bonnie Raitt. While Helen’s rendition certainly had the shades of love, regret and longing of Prine’s original lyrics, the song had legitimacy to it when sung by a woman with decades of life experience behind her.
These people are old, ranging in age from 73 to 90. Some needed wheelchairs and walkers to navigate Chautauqua’s separate facilities. Two of the chorus members, Dora Parker and Jean Florio, celebrated their 90th birthday with the audience during Sunday’s performance.
Nearly every song became a passionate celebration, with expressive deliveries and old hips swaying, charming the audience. Bob Cilman and the Chorus produced a whirling-dervish rendition of the Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Songs like James Brown’s “I Feel Good” have a sideways spin when sung by a 90 year old. However, it was the Chorus’ show closer, an a cappella version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” that created the memorable, lasting promise that you’re never too old to rock and roll.
I’ve always liked the word alchemy―the transformation of something base into gold, while in the search for the elixir of life, a transmutation. The word’s meaning seems a particularly apropos allegory for the Chorus and their performance: a group of older adults, in collaboration with an engaged and appreciative audience, transformed through song and spirit, into a genuine and ageless connected community.
And I think we saw the “Angel from Montgomery.” She was the last to leave the stage on the arm of a band member decades younger than her, the light shining from above turning her white-haired Victorian bun into a luminous, iridescent halo.
Mary Cobb, Director of Communications