My wife and I moved to the small city of Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1999. It’s on the Connecticut River, about 100 miles west of Boston. We actually live in Florence, a distinct village with its own post office. But when we get our property tax bill, it’s from Northampton.
We’re proud of our adopted city. It’s the home of Smith College, where one of our daughters got her degree. There are four other colleges in the nearby towns. For that, and many other reasons, the downtown is alive with pedestrians all the time. There is an abundance of restaurants, shops, and cultural venues. The city is known for its arts community, and for its diversity. One of the things we are most proud of is that Northampton is the home of the Young @ Heart Chorus.
The Young @ Heart Chorus, founded 25 years ago by Bob Cilman, is a group of singers who range in age from about 70 to 90. Over the years, the chorus, whose personnel, for obvious reasons, changes frequently, has developed a repertoire of songs well-known by rock music fans, including those of James Brown, The Talking Heads and Sonic Youth. Cilman, who acts as musical director and arranger, somehow continues to coax amazing performances on songs completely out of their cultural and generational league. In fact, their slightly toned-down version of “I Want to Be Sedated,” which was a hit for the punk group, The Ramones, is better than the original.
The Young @ Heart Chorus is not a novelty act. Their unusual performances are professionally and passionately presented, provoke strong emotions, and are very entertaining. They’ve toured all over the world, singing before sold-out crowds in major venues. Last year, a wonderful documentary, called Young @ Heart, was filmed in Northampton by two British filmmakers, and shown in the United Kingdom on the BBC.
In early March of this year, it was screened three times at the historic Academy of Music in Northampton, before cheering crowds. Chorus members attended, as well as the filmmakers, who answered questions from the audience after the showing. It was the most exciting and moving event we have been to in this city.
Young @ Heart is a miracle – a beautiful movie about beautiful people. It shows us the struggles of old age that chorus members encounter as they perform and tour, and as they go about their daily lives. The camera allows us to watch rehearsals, as the singers try to learn the songs, often a daunting task for them. We also get to see portions of one of their shows, and even some MTV-style music videos they made. Director Cilman is brilliant – patient, personable, caring – as he works tirelessly to bring out the best in each member. Demonstrating great intuitive musical skills, his pivotal role is like George Martin’s was for the Beatles.
The movie is funny, sometimes sad, and extremely uplifting. It has received rave reviews, and has played in Japan and many other countries. There are plans in the works for commercial release, so it may be “playing at a theater near you” soon. In my opinion, it is Oscar material. And it all happened right here in Northampton.
Check out this link.
Young @ Heart Chorus