Ordinarily, I leave anything about music to Peter Tibbles in his Sunday Elder Music column at this blog. Peter's knowledge, with the aid of “assistant musicologist” Norma, is wide and deep. Mine, although I am an appreciator, is haphazard and thin.
But I have some music for you today because this particular music carries great significance for us elders beyond its intrinsic beauty.
I came across it accidentally while absently clicking around the television dial last Sunday – a rerun of 60 Minutes, a year-old episode from January 2015, titled “Alive and Kickin'”.
That's the name of a theatrical presentation of the stories and songs from people age 55 and older, each of them an amateur singer who has harbored a life-long dream to sing professionally. But life got in the way of that pursuit.
The production is the brainchild of a theatrical producer, Vi Higginson, who told 60 Minutes that her mission in developing the show is to preserve African-American music from gospel to soul to R&B that is rarely performed anymore in a world of hip-hop and its derivatives.
The 60 Minutes story unfolds nicely so I don't want to tell you too much up front. If you have seen it, you will understand that. But there are a couple of moments in the story to watch for – there will be a quiz on the other side.
I'm kidding about the quiz but these are pertinent to you and me and being old:
- When Ms. Higginson explains that she is not just indulging some old farts' dream. She's taking it the kids too.
- When one of the singers says, “It's never too late for anything.”
- The last line of the story - “I just love being an old man.”
This is a longer video that I usually post, about 25 minutes, so settle back and let it flow over you.
You know what? I just love being an old woman. I didn't have to overcome anything like that man did, although I have my sorrows and the look on his face when he says at the end, “I just love being an old man,” is exactly how I feel about being the age I am.
There are not many people in the world doing as inspired to do as much as Vi Higginson for the perception of old people and she's found a way to go so much further with it.
The scope of her project is profound. There is the personal redemption of the singers and a chance to live a dream. The staging of a show which is enough in itself for most producers. And the larger mission to preserve the music b passing it on to young musicians:
"The older people carry the music in their body, in their mind,” says Higgingson. “If they die, then that sound may be gone forever."
Amen. There are even more projects you can find out about at Higginson's Mama Foundation for the Arts website - “Musicials, Concerts and Education in Harlem.”
Not to mention that Alive! 55+ and Kickin' is an annual show and if you're in the New York City area, you're in luck. The 2016 season begins next month and runs until June.
You can find out all about it at the show's website and think about attending. If I were still in New York, I sure would.