Thursday, December 25, 2008

Glee club interviewed on local radio!!

The launch of the c.d. at Hilda Ross On Monday Dec 22nd was so exciting, with 90 people turning up to the launch and selling 1/3 of the c.d.s on the day. Then Tuesday Dec 23rd two of the Glee Club members (Keith Aikin and Ngaire Fraser) accompanied me to the Community Radio station to be interviewed about the project. The recordings have been done via the programmes on my Mac computer, Garageband, and iTunes. It is definitely a live recording, perhaps next time we will get into a studio, but for a first recording after just two years of the group, it is great!!

Here is the link for you to listen to the interview.

Community Radio Interview

For those who would like to purchase a copy of the c.d. from outside of Hamilton, please look for my work email address by going to and searching for me, and emailing me. I will send you, post-free a copy of the c.d..

It has also been exciting to see the opportunities that are opening up for the Glee Club. At the 2010 Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival Glee Club will be joining with a local primary school choir to present a concert, which will be a great experience, especially the preparation for this project. In addition I have been invited to present to the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Retirement Villages Managers forum in March, and two more of the Glee Club members will accompany me there as well, participant voice is paramount in my research, and ongoing work with the Hilda Ross Glee Club.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The cd is here!!!

The box of completed Hilda Ross Glee Club c.d.s arrived today, and I have one right here, right now. It is very exciting and is already leading to so much more.

There is going to be an official launch of the new c.d. at the Hilda Ross Complex on Monday Dec 22nd at 2:30p.m. Glee Club will sing, and we will play tracks off the c.d.. We are expecting to have press coverage of this event, and sell a good proportion of the c.d.s on the day. It may turn out that 150 was too conservative a number to have made.

The Glee Club will be on community radio (AM1206 or FM106.7) on Tuesday evening Dec 23rd between 5 and 6 during the Arts hour. Keith (85) has agreed to go with me, and one of the women will self select tomorrow. We will be able to play one or two tracks, and the participants will be able to talk about the experience of making the c.d., and of being involved in Glee Club.

At Arts Waikato Christmas party yesterday I was talking to Alana MacKay, Festival manager for the Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival, and we have put in place a combined concert with Glee Club and a local primary school choir yet to be approached, for the Summer festival 2010 This annual festival is a BIG event on the Hamilton Calendar.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hilda Ross Glee Club c.d.

.. is scheduled to arrive in Hamilton in time for the Town House Luncheon at Hilda Ross on Friday, I feel a launch party coming on!! The Glee Club members live in the town houses and the apartments, and will all be there to receive their own copy as well as buy other copies for friends and family.

We will launch the c.d. with suitable fanfare, I will take my purple trumpet!!!

It is my intention to link some of the sound tracks to my blog so that you can listen to them, also to set up a mechanism whereby you can purchase copies of the c.d., should you choose to, for $10:00

The Zimmers

The Zimmers are another example of this growing phenomenon of singing with the aged. It's take a bit of sleuthing but I have discovered how this group came about. Many of you would have seen Geriatric1927 in some Telecom adverts. If you haven't look for him in Youtube. His real name is Peter and he has been posting there now for around two years, giving commentary on his view of life and getting a large following. This is a delightful story as well as a great video clip!

The BBC got hold of geriatric1927 and were working with him about getting involved with programmes not for self-glorification or fame and not for money, but to get blogging (weblog similar to what you are now reading) ‘out there’. The next step seems to be a bit of a leap, but the plan was made to gather a group together to record a cover version of the song 'Talking'bout my generation". The original group numbered between twenty and twenty-five (according to Peter) . I am not sure how they were selected, apparently some of them attended the two-day recording session with medics on hand. They recorded in the Abbey Road Recording studio, with the best recording people available, including help from the Fame Academy Voice Coaches.

The resultant release went way up in the charts in Britain and Europe, and all proceeds from the sales goes to Age Concern in Great Britian.

Since then they have appeared on television, toured in Germany and now number around fourty singers with an average age of 78.

Here is their website:

The Zimmers

Here is the video of the first song

Talkin' 'bout my generation

Friday, December 12, 2008

INsite article has appeared!!

An article first written a year ago after I presented at the NZ Association of Gerontology's annual conference about the Hilda Ross Glee Club, and the Glee Club performed. The article 'fell under the radar', and it is even better that it appeared now as it ties on with the young at heart movie being viewed and my decision to give this area of research my full attention. Already the article has generated response. I have been invited to speak to the Retirement Villages Association quarterly retirement village forum in Mt Maunganui next March. I also need to start codifying my programme so that I can deliver it such a way that it is comprehensive and, able to be duplicated. Even over lunch discussions today here at the University I was hearing about singing at a retirement complex, which is a pianist playing ,and residents 'sing if you like', when my experience shows that singing in this context can be made so much richer for the participants, with exponential benefits to their wellbeing.

To reach the INsite magazine

I took a singing session with the Rest Home singers yesterday. I had not seen them for some weeks, with work commitments getting in the way, and they were delighted to see me, many telling me how much they had missed me. I attribute that to two things: the enjoyment that the singing engenders, but also that I interact with them, talk with them, get them to choose songs, joke with them, sing along with them, but also play and listen to them and admire their singing. Because they know (if they remember) that I do that, many of them put more energy into their singing. Nell is one of the Rest Home singers. I have put up a photo of her (age 89) and me at the Rest Home's Christmas dinner, at which I played piano.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Glee Club C.D.

The Hilda Ross Glee Club spend last Thursday afternoon singing for three hours to try and complete our planned c.d. With the air conditioning being turned off because it was too noisy, and everyone dripping it was quite a marathon, but we hung in there. Because of technical problems four of the eleven songs need to be re-recorded, but by the end of this week the c.d. will be completed and in the hands of the participants. The c.d cover was designed at the weekend with help from my apple expert nephew-in-law Darren. When it is completed it will be sent to community and national radio station to see what the response is. I am very pleased with the overall result of the live recording, and it will be a good measure of the progress from year to year. Of note is that the average age of the Glee Club is 78.5, so they are 'younger' than the young'at'heart group :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Silver Belles

Five African-American women who danced in the clubs in Harlem during the second world war formed themselves into a group in 1985 and have been dancing their way into the limelight. Now aged 84 - 96 they are the feature of a movie entitled Been rich all my life which seems a bit of a parallel with young@heart, but with dancers rather than singers. The addition of racial tension makes their story that much more interesting.

The website for the Silver Belles

American Thanksgiving Concert: Hamilton Chorale

Another concert series has come and gone for the (this concert) 25-voice Hamilton Chorale. It was a demanding programme, but we wowed two audiences with songs from George and Ira Gershwin, and Irving Berlin, culminating in God Bless America. Our soloist, June Dams, who also sang with us last year said that she noticed how much better the choir was , which was a fillip for us all.

The choir had gone through a torrid month leading up to this weekend's concerts, in which a husband of one member, a daughter of another member and a son of husband-and-wife members all passed away. All four choir members did sing in both concerts, and I will be seeking the whole choir's feedback on what singing in the choir has been for them this year, with particular interest in these four responses.

The choir really does act as a family, and everyone plays a part in rehearsals, with setting up the church's seats for the sections, providing me with water to drink, moving the piano and putting it away. Then for concerts, it is seating for the choir on the stage, moving the church's furniture off and on the stage area, and for our Sunday afternoon concert providing and setting up for afternoon tea for choir and audience. I have posted a delightful photograph of two of the choir's senior members, who set up and put away the tables for the afternoon tea, following our Sunday Concert.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hilda Ross Glee Club Spring Concert

This post comes with the ongoing euphoric feeling all performers experience, that comes with a performance. I have no doubt that the singers from today will be feeling it for the rest of the day. Today The Glee Club performed in front of their peers, and invited guests, an audience of 79, where extra chairs had to be put out three times!!

The seventeen women and men of the Glee Club sang well, their words were clear, their voices were strong, and the part singing was secure and most enjoyable in four of the songs that we performed.

A year ago there were twelve singers, and part work was not part of public performance. The repertoire of songs has also changed. Last year they were the songs that I considered might be old favourites, such as 'My grandfather's clock' 'Edelweiss' 'By the light of the silvery moon'. Today's concert included two ABBA songs, Mozart's Horn concerto with words by Flanders and Swann, and a song prepared for one singer's 90th birthday earlier this year: 'It is no secret', sung in three parts. I mentioned in another post that I have an expectation of improved singing technique and growing complexity of music in those groups with whom I work, and this group has shown the evidence of this expectation emphatically today.

The Glee Club is going to make a recording in early December, and today I was asked by members of the audience if the disc would be for sale... is this the beginning of a new journey for the Hilda Ross Glee Club? Rest assured I will keep you informed!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hamilton Chorale data

Having now taken identification from the members of the Chorale, I am excited about this new direction, but also aware that I do not want to view them differently, unless it is helpful to the Chorale to do otherwise.

The median age of the women is 66 and the median age of the men is 69. There are three people over 80, with eight people over 70. Three people have left the choir in the last year, I want to talk to them about what caused them to give up the choir, with my new lens of gerontology, rather than aggrieved conductor.

Now I have a delightful three-group setup

The Hamilton Chorale of fully independent participants
The Hilda Ross Glee Club with residential independent participants
The Hilda Ross Rest Home Singers with dependent singers.

Watch this space!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I have now seen the movie young@heart

I attended a showing of this movie last evening, and firstly let me say that I really enjoyed the movie. The absolute ebullience of the participant singers cannot be understated. Their enjoyment of the camaraderie, the performances, and the learning new things was refreshing and a joy to see, but not surprising for me, having seen such enthusiasm among the Glee Club, the Rest Home Singers and the Hamilton Chorale, with whom I work.

The videos that were designed for certain songs, using the participant singers, were very clever and entertaining: from the bowling alley to the fairground. Their team of instrumentalists is also fantastic, and give great support to the singers and the shows. Instrumentalists are part of the choir community rather than session musician brought in, the movie had an elderly violinist. The movie music track was, for me at times, too intrusive in the setting of mood for what purported to be a documentary.

What is also apparent from their website is that they have been producing shows since their second year of the formation of the group from members of an elderly housing project called the Walter Salvo house in Northampton, Massachusetts. New members have been attracted to the group as they have presented sell-out performances, initially in their own town and then in other towns and countries. They were linked early on to the No Theater and their expertise to put on that first show, and from there it grew 'like topsy' The story is delightful.

The young@heart story

A very moving event was the choir's performance at the local jail, where approx 40 men were being held in a minimum security setting. There were very real bonding moments between the two groups, instant grandparents for many of the men.

I note also that there is a big time commitment to this group, with 2-3 hr rehearsal once a week and three rehearsals a week when a show date is close, along with rehearsing at home with discs to learn the music off by heart. The final product is very entertaining, and very American.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Choir of Unheard Voices

This is a wonderful interview with singers and the conductor of a choir in northern Australia. Thank you to friend Brian Livings in Sydney for sending this site to me. While the singing is 'unique' as far as best practice is concerned, it is great to hear what the participants say, and what singing is doing for people in a different context. I wonder if this choir in a year's time will still be singing with 'flexible' intonation. If so I would see that as unfortunate. I have personally found that, in every setting, singers can improve. It's a bit like riding a bike, you keep doing it, you get better.

The Choir of Unheard Voices

Text from the above website:

Singing for Soul

Using the regional arts development fund given by the Mackay Regional Council the Mental Illness Fellowship of North Queensland have set up a unique way to cope with mental illness.

Known as 'The Choir of Unheard Voices' ABC reporter Daniel Hamilton went along to find out about the power of music.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hamilton Chorale joins my research

I have been conductor of the Hamilton Chorale now for nearly two years, a community-based non-auditioned adult choir. In looking at my new direction I examined where this fitted in. In fact there is a good synergy, because many of the choir members are retired, and I know there is at least one 80-yr-old. I think that they have become used to my expectations and it will be interesting to compare and contrast the fully independent Chorale members and the Glee Club members; their motivations, their back stories and what singing in a choir does for them. In addition I want to contact the people who have left the Chorale recently, to hear their story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Group Singing Is Good for You!

According to an article in Medical Hypotheses, “Vibration of the human skull, as produced by loud vocalization, exerts a massaging effect on the brain and facilitates expulsion of metabolic products into the cerebrospinal fluid, leading neurophysicists to hypothesize that vocal vibrations cause a kind of cleaning of the chemical cobwebs out of the head. A process as simple as singing might well make the removal of chemical waste from the brain more efficient.
Medical Hypotheses Vol 25 Issue 1
Mechanical effect of vocalization on human brain and meninges

And according to a recent study by the University of California, Irvine, singing in a choir just might make you healthier. This study, authored by Robert Beck and Thomas Cesario and published in Music Perception, found that Immunoglobulin A, a protein used by the immune system to fight disease, increased 150 percent during rehearsals and 240 percent during performance.: Beck, R. J.; Cesario, T. C.; Yousefi, A.; Enamoto, H..
Music Perception, Fall 2000, Vol. 18 Issue 1,

There certainly is a sense of euphoria that choral singers experience after a particularly inspiring rehearsal or performance. But part of that sensation is due to more than just individual physiology; it derives from the cooperative effort that is at the heart of the choral endeavor. The late great conductor Robert Shaw thought of a chorus as a “community of _expression,” whose meaning “rests upon a common devotion to the composer’s utterance and a mutual respect for the personal dignity of fellow-workers.” Shaw’s associate, Ann Howard Jones enlarged on this idea. Noting that in a chorus the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts, she wrote, “I know of no other activity where access to the most profound artistic works can be made possible and satisfying for the participant who has limited skills as an individual but whose capacity is enlarged by the group.”

In one study, a health educator and music professor teamed up for a study published in England’s Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, in which they reported choral singing promoted not just physical health, but offered emotional and spiritual benefits as well. Using their own choir as a basis for their study, Dr. Stephen Clift and Grenville Hancox developed questionnaires to document physical and emotional feelings while singing. Singers reported improved lung capacity, high energy, relieved asthma, better posture, and enhanced feelings of relaxation, mood, and confidence. In a follow-up questionnaire, 89 percent of the singers reported intense happiness while singing, 79 percent felt less stressed, and 75 percent experienced heightened adrenaline and wakefulness.

NZ Association of Gerontology, Auckland AGM

I was pleased to present at the annual meeting of the NZAG Auckland branch on Monday October 20th. What is a strong aspect of my research is the use of participant voice, and I was able to present them with the findings from five groups, with a total of 96 participants and over 50 respondents. As well as the findings they were able to view video footage of the Hilda Ross Glee Club, taken when they performed at the School of Education, University of Waikato September 2007. My own observation of that footage was how much their singing had improved in the subsequent year, and that is another strong aspect of my work; that there is an expectation in every group that their singing will improve, in such ways as breathing and tone.

Lively discussion followed the presentation, and the attendees willingly participated in an impromptu singing lesson, as the discussion moved to their own singing. I look forward to interacting more with the NZGA Auckland branch.


The content of the movie young@heart is matching experiences happening here in Hamilton, New Zealand. The Hilda Ross Glee Club has been active now for two years, not the 15 years that the Young@heart group had been functioning. But in that time the Glee Club has performed for their peers, and for outside audiences on average of 4 times a year. In 2007 they were guest performers at the Gerontology Conference in Hamilton, and were featured on National Radio. This group is formed from the people who occupy the villas at this Ryman Healthcare facility.

I also work with the Resthome Singers at the same facility, and the joy that they show in their singing is heartwarming.

Tomorrow I go to speak at the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Association of Gerontology's annual meeting, and my topic is my Hilda Ross groups. To flesh out this presentation, I asked my Glee Club members last week to tell me the benefits they found in singing in the Glee Club, and in the process found out so much more of their back-stories:

* Harry sang as a child, then spent 3 years in a prisoner of war camp and didn't sing afterwards. He moved, with his wife, to New Zealand, and never sang in church. Now he can sing higher than before, and his wife reports that he sings in church now!
* Wally stopped singing 20 years ago when his wife of 48 yrs died. he has just turned 90 and he thinks that he sings better than ever now
* Keith has always been interested in music and being involved in the Glee Club has broadened his knowledge about music and has improved his singing.
* Cecilia has Parkinson's disease which has affected her voice, and the singing has helped her control those effects.
* Pauline has found that her lung capacity has improved greatly after losing part of a lung, and she has a wonderful uplifted joyful feeling at the end of our practices.
* Ngaire takes Glee Club as her time out. She has a husband with multiple sclerosis, and she enjoys this time and thoroughly enjoys singing.
* Betty finds the rehearsals are wonderful therapy, 'fantastic, it just does something for you, you feel a bit blue and you start singing and it's wonderful'.
* Elizabeth has a chronic lung complaint, and it is really a joy to sing and it improves her breathing.
* Tui has had her enjoyment of singing renewed, and she leaves the rehearsal feeling like she has had a tonic.

For my first post I will leave you with their voices.