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Young at heart
  1. John Launer
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Launer, London Deanery, Stewart House, London WC1B 5DN, UK; jlauner{at}londondeanery.ac.uk

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By the time you read this, I shall be 60. The prospect is somewhat surreal. When I was young, my image of 60-year olds was of feeble arthritics with patchy memories. As I have grown older, that image has changed. Most of my contemporaries are at the peak of their careers. Some visit the gym two or three times a week. Others go mountaineering or on sailing holidays. Perhaps people of my age have always had to adjust their stereotypes as they reached 60—or perhaps I belong to a generation that has seen an exceptional transformation in the lives of older people. Probably both are true.

Either way, it was inspiring to see a remarkable movie recently called “Young at Heart”. It shows a group of about two dozen singers whose average age is 80, with some well into their 90s. Most are gifted amateurs, although some are retired professionals. The movie follows them through a 2-month period of rehearsals for their 2006 concert in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their longstanding director, Bob Climan, trains them with uncompromising choral discipline as they learn new songs including “Yes We Can Can”, the Allen Toussaint hit for the Pointer Sisters (where the word “can” is repeated 71 times in varying complicated rhythms) and Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia”. They also perform punk classics such as “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash, or “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. Originally broadcast as a Channel Four documentary in 2006, the movie has now been shown worldwide and is available as a DVD.

No illusions

In …

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