The Singing Senior Citizen

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Our youth culture loves the sound of singing emanating from young throats.

All around us are examples of singers in their teens, twenties, thirties, and forties, but the singing of senior citizens rarely is noticed or given its due.

In reading the texts on singing from the past 300 years, one thing comes back again and again:voices RETAINED their freshness into old age. Adelina Patti, the diva of the nineteenth century, sang into her sixties, as did many other singers of that era and before. Vocal deterioration due to health would be the only cause of a premature decline in a singer’s singing forces. This of course, is contingent upon the fact that the technique of singing is HEALTHY, and free from constriction and tension.

Senior citizens can maintain their singing voices through guided exercise. They may have a reduction in stamina, but should still be able to sing music of varying difficulty based on their skill. But they should still SING.

Several years ago, I attended a memorial tribute to Renata Tebaldi in New York City. It was a star-studded affair with many celebrated singers from the mid-twentieth century in attendance. On the program was none other than the celebrated Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, in his seventies. The voice, burnished with time, rendered a stunning “Ave Maria.” Age had affected the voice, but the character of the sound was distinct, expressive, and his legato was untouched by time.

He was a masterclass of singing that evening, and an experience I will never forget.

Over the holiday, I watched the documentary “Alive Inside.” In the documentary, senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia are given personal music players with playlists built from music that they listened to in their life. Because the portion of the brain that connects to music is the last to deteriorate, these nursing home patients were enlivened, and literally ‘brought back to life.’ If you can watch it on Netflix, I highly recommend it.

Our senior citizens have seen and lived through much, and their songs are important. They have much to tell us. Music connects them to us, and to OUR history. Are you going to listen to them? I will be on the front row, every time.