TOWNSEND — “Where there’s life, there’s hope. Where there’s hope, there’s life.”
The unofficial motto of the Hope Community Chorus guides the senior-led musical group.
“The main thing of it is, we’re developing,” said Alice Struthers, a retired teacher who directs the ensemble.
The singers started out a year and a half ago as a hodge-podge collection, Struthers said, and are now part of a group. They are making music and having fun.
“This group is equally involved with social interaction and enjoyment and keeping a sense of worth in older age,” she said. Some of the singers had never sung in a group before and are learning new skills. More experienced singers might be learning to read music under the director’s guidance.
A performance is a normal result of getting together and singing, Struthers said, after a well-attended show at the Townsend Meeting Hall on June 10.
This chorus does not exist just for performances though.
“I don’t want the concert to determine everything,” she said.
For this educator, letting the performance requests determine the repertoire is like the tail wagging the dog.
While Struthers chooses most of the songs, she takes suggestions and requests. Two soloists at the most recent concert chose their own pieces.
“It was funny, I sang ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning,'” Hirk Fortin said. He and his wife Louise celebrated their 58th anniversary two days before the show.
“You were the hit of the show,” Louise offered.
“That’s because they’re all deaf,” he answered
Struthers wants the singers to learn about reading music, volume and following a director.
“Basically, I’m a teacher. I like to tell them stuff about the music,” she said.
“They understand when I yell at them it’s all for a good cause,” Struthers said.
Not only is this chorus a place for singers to learn and develop as musicians, there are other positives.
One soloist suffered a heart event, Struthers said. Singing was part of the way she recovered.
“She thanks me,” Struthers said.
Singing gets people out and about. In the past year, they traveled to Ashburnham to sing for the Council on Aging and to Atwood Acres, senior housing in Townsend, for shows.
The requests for performances continue to arrive. The chorus was asked to play at the Friends of the Townsend Seniors annual meeting in September.
“Father Jeremy asked about us performing at the church,” Struthers said. The Rev. Jeremy St. Martin from St. John the Evangelist sat right in the front row for the June 10 show.
Even with all the requests, there’s no place like home. The group likes performing at the meeting hall. There is a piano and the acoustics are good, Struthers said.
There is another big benefit for doing local shows. “They all enjoy showing their relatives and friends what they can do,” she said.
During the show, audience members recorded parts of the performance. Singers waved to people they knew and smiles filled the hall.
“I think they’re pretty proud of the accomplishments of the choir,” Struthers said. “I hope so.”
The chorus is the work of many. Jane Jackson had the original idea for performing, Struthers said. Jackson manages the group and helps turn pages.
The pianist, Janet Alford, provides most of the needed accompaniment. She was joined by Debbie Stoll and Lisa Struthers on percussion for “Lion King Trio.”
And of course, the singers work hard. They need to learn the songs and they like being in the chorus.
“It’s fun. We rehearse an hour a week,” Fortin said. “We learn about music as we go along.”
“And,” he said, “I like to sing.”
After a summer hiatus, the chorus will resume weekly rehearsals in late August or September. They have to get ready for that annual meeting.