Rockin' With Young@Heart Chorus

Usually when you hear, "oldie but goodie," you think about a favorite song, but Melinda Murphy has discovered that sometimes it's not about the song; it's about the singer.

The Young@Heart chorus is no nursing home choir, the The Early Show correspondent reports for the Young at Heart series.

Its repertoire is familiar to most teenagers. In fact, these seniors are now singing the same songs they used to tell their kids to turn off the radio.

"Turn it down at least so your mother and I can at least talk," says Jack Schnepp, recalling what he used to say to his kids. So what do his kids say now? "They're amazed," Schnepp says, "They come and say, 'This is fantastic. I'm so proud of you.' I'm doing songs that they enjoy."

Some of the songs they sing are fun, like Outkast's mega hit, "Hey Ya." Others are a bit sad like, "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday." The Rolling Stones never sounded like the Young@Heart chorus, and that's the thing: Their voices make you hear lyrics in a way you never have before.

Choir director Bob Cilman explains, "These guys make you really tune in to the lyrics, and you find that they can really be interesting coming out of their mouths."

At 91, singer Eileen Hall is the oldest member of the group. The youngest member is 73.

Singer Elaine Fligman notes, "We seem to have a particular impact on the audience. I tell you, the first couple of times I'd say to myself, 'Are they hearing what I think we're doing?' Because the response was so intense. It was wonderful."

The Young@Heart chorus delights crowds the world over: Rotterdam, Munich, London, Hawaii, and even Australia. They are performing at music festivals where folks treat them like rock stars.

Asked if she thinks her group inspires others, Hall says, "Oh, I think so. Oh, absolutely. They say so. People come up to us afterwards."

But as her son notes, perhaps this group is most inspiring to its members.

Richard Hall says the group keeps his mom young. "It's rejuvenating for her, and it gives her a purpose and a mission."

Eileen Hall's health has been failing a bit, and the thought of moving away from the group to be near her son is heart-wrenching.

She gets emotional thinking about it, Eileen Hall says.

Schnepp says, "We understand the problems that we've all gone through getting to this point, through age. And when people have a problem, we're there to be with them, to understand them. It is like a big family at this point."

The friendships keep them grounded, the music keeps them challenged.

The day Murphy visited, the group was learning Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side," which in some ways is apropos.

Cilman says, "I think it keeps them interestingly old. The point is to be gracefully old. And I think they are a really interesting version of what you can be as an older person."

And a blazing example of what old age can be like.

Schnepp says, "When we come out and do some of these jumping songs, they're just amazed. They'd say, 'Gee ,I wish I could do that.' And what we're trying to do is tell them, 'You can. Just get out here and do it,' and that's what we're doing."

The music festival that invites them to perform pays for the travel. This October, the chorus is on its way to London.
  • Tatiana Morales

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