It’s not unusual to hear music pouring from the main room of our Senior Center. It happens during the monthly birthday parties, and for exercise classes like Movement Speaks and Zumba. Music also spices up holiday celebrations like the Halloween costume contest.
But there’s a very special kind of music that happens when musician and singer Jim Freund stops by. That’s when people gather around the piano and start belting out songs with all their hearts.
“We sing about mamas on Mother’s Day, papas on Father’s Day, lovers on Valentine’s Day,” Freund muses in a video he commissioned about the singalongs. “We have special seasonal tributes, and we never forget to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in all its Irish glory.”
The monthly gatherings also feature show tunes and standards from the mid-20th century, as well as songs in Spanish and other languages. Collectively they form the soundtrack of the older adults gathered around the piano —the songs they listened to on car radios in high school; the ones that accompanied a first kiss or got everyone dancing at a wedding reception or anniversary celebration.
“Music always brightens up your life,” says Tina Hurtado, who regularly attends Freund’s sessions at the piano. “We have a wide choice of songs, and he’s a very good musician. He never wants to stop.”
Hurtado says the group has grown as Senior Center attendees became more comfortable singing in a public space. “People don’t feel shy anymore. More and more people are soloing.”
In short, Freund “is a very good person with a good heart,” she concludes with a big smile.
Freund’s 90-minute documentary is called “Young at Heart.” It features footage of the senior singalongs he’s been conducting over the past two decades at Goddard and other senior centers, and captures the experience the singers enjoy.
While members of the group get a lot out of the performances, Freund says he gets a lot in return. He began doing the singalongs at senior centers after retiring from a long and successful career in law. At first he tried performing at local outlets. But it wasn’t until he visited a senior center for the first time that he felt the connection with the audience and the music that he’d been longing for.
“Leading you in song is atop the list of activities that have kept me alive and kicking into my 80s,” he says on the video.
“I’ve definitely heard your voices, loud and clear and enthusiastic —and they’ll always remain with me.”