Sunday, November 20, 2011

Life-long learning III: The Young@Heart Chorus

Yesterday I watched the film "Young @Heart". I found it almost unbearably moving. These choristers, with an average age of 80, live to sing, quite literally: singing may actually be keeping them alive. Recent research tells us that the onset of Alzheimer's can be delayed through mental activity, especially by learning new skills.

There is something deeply touching about seeing this chorus convey the lyrics to rock-and-roll songs with such joy, such sincerity, such lack of artifice. Watching them perform to a jail-house audience who were enthralled and at times, deeply moved, was really something.

I wept a lot watching this film. I was so often reminded of my father, who had a deep and abiding love for music. He was listening to violin music on the walkman I bought him until the day before he died. For him, his research and his lab (he was a scientist) kept him fighting against lung cancer. He was absolutely determined to beat it so that he could go on with his work. Sadly, he didn't. He died at the age of 86.

I once gave a concert at a long term care facility here in Toronto. I heard later from my mother, who was in the audience, that when I started to sing, there was a visible stir in the crowd. She said that some of those people, who were terribly sick, seemed to come back from the dead when they heard the sound of my voice.

I don't think that my singing was so special; I do think the human voice has an extraordinary power to stimulate, move, entertain. I believe it can even bring, for a moment, life to those who are ready to leave it.
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