Sassy, senior songbirds bring back melodies from the past

According to members of the Orcas Senior Center Songbirds, they may forget where they left their car keys, but remembering a favorite old tune is a breeze.

“It’s just a lot of fun to sing together,” member Kay Clark said. “And we’re singing songs from a long time ago, so it brings back a lot of memories.”

Senior center coordinator Linda Tretheway started the choir last April with nine singers. It has since grown to 15, and includes a 98-year-old man. They’ve performed at the black box at Orcas Center as part of the classics series, at the Health and Community Services annual meeting (where they received a standing ovation), and at the Mullis Center and Islands Convalescent Center in Friday Harbor.

Their repertoire includes classics like “Play a Simple Melody,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” but Tretheway says they’ll soon be branching out to pop, jazz, classical, madrigal, rock and roll, and three part harmonies from the 1930s like “Mr. Sandman.” She also wants to incorporate dancing into their performances.

The seniors practice on Tuesdays at 1 p.m., after the senior center lunch. Marilyn Parman provides accompaniment on bass and Don McClain plays the piano.

“If you love to sing, come join us,” Tretheway says.

Tretheway began singing at an early age in church choirs and performed in community theater musicals as a young adult.

“Over the years I have sung with the Sacramento Symphony Chorus, Cincinnati Pops, an all women barbershop quartet called the Treblemakers, and a couple of musicals at Orcas Center. I even tried out for Orcas Idol this year,” she said.

For the last five years, Tretheway and community services manager Joyce Rupp thought it would be fun to coordinate a senior chorus. Until this year, there was little interest.

“The timing was right and it came together,” Tretheway said. “We plan to keep going, and going, and going.”

The Orcas Senior Center Songbirds always perform for free – and with a smile.

Says member Nancy Zier, “When you’re this old, singing makes the aches and pains go away!”