Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – A sing-along activity offered at the Wayland Senior Center with several participants in 1988 has evolved significantly in 29 years. Now, Golden Tones chorus is comprised of over 70 members, ages 60s to 90s, residing in 17 communities: Framingham, Holliston, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Marlborough, Medfield, Millis, Natick, Newton, Sherborn, Sudbury, Waltham, Wayland and Weston. Five local members are Doris Downey, Edwina Eastman and Ellen King of Hudson, and Mary Lambert and Barbara Sutherland of Marlborough.
Songs, dances, and humorous skits with costumes are featured in their concerts presented throughout the region between routes 128 and 495, as well as Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Worcester. Performances were presented late-2016 in Marlborough and the chorus held its holiday party in Northborough.
According to its website, “The mission of Golden Tones chorus is to practice and provide enriching entertainment for senior citizen facilities, schools, faith communities and public events. Members are men and women of retirement age who sing and dance to lift spirits, have fun, and promote health and social engagement to benefit our audiences and ourselves.”
The chorus was founded and first directed by the Rev. Maddie Sifantus, who retired from the position in 2008 and now serves as pastor of the Universalist Unitarian Church in Santa Paula, Calif. Current director is Deborah Marion of Natick, who has held various positions with the chorus since 2005. Marion enjoys the rehearsal process with vocalists of all skill levels.
“Some members have choral experience, and others are at a point in their lives where they want to try something new,” she explained. “In fact, we’re now singing a song from the musical ‘Mame.’ The lyrics are ‘Open a new window, open a new door. Travel a new highway that’s never been tried before.’ Everyone loves that song because it has such a positive message.”
Their repertoire includes popular classics, folk and traditional songs, and show tunes from all eras. A committee meets quarterly to suggest new songs and performance ideas.
“People who like to sing are very creative and come up with lots of ideas,” Marion said. “It happens naturally by getting together and having fun.”
Rehearsals take place Tuesday mornings from September through mid-June at the Wayland Senior Center, and concerts are presented weekly. However, rehearsals aren’t scheduled in December to allow time for more holiday concerts. In December 2016, the chorus performed a record high number of 11 concerts throughout the Metrowest area within three weeks. Travelling to out-of-town concerts isn’t required of members, Marion noted.
“There’s a core group of about 40 people who really like travelling to do lots of concerts, and others opt-in as they wish,” she said. “Some people prefer to come to our rehearsals at the senior center and don’t go on the road.”
In 2012, the chorus performed for incoming freshmen at Boston University who were about to start a community service program with older adults in nursing homes. BU has invited the chorus to return each year since.
“It’s a highlight of our year” Marion said of the BU appearance. “The members look forward to performing for the college students because they’re very enthusiastic.”
Marion cites a particular BU performance as her favorite. During the question-and-answer period, a chorus member who is a BU alum shared that continuing to play violin in her later years revitalized an interest in singing. Also, she felt that singing in the chorus improved her health while recovering from multiple strokes.
“After the performance, a student told this woman in our chorus that she hadn’t planned to continue playing violin while in college,” Marion relayed. “But the student said that she changed her mind after hearing the chorus member’s inspiring story.”
In 2013, Golden Tones chorus celebrated its silver jubilee by presenting an intergenerational concert with the Wayland Middle School Select Chorus. The concert also launched the town of Wayland’s 375th anniversary celebration. Chorus founder Sifantus returned as a speaker for the special occasion.
As the chorus nears its 30th anniversary, members continue making music as well as friends.
“There’s lots of socializing before and after rehearsals,” Marion said. “Members make friends and plan get-togethers. It’s like a big, happy, singing family.”
For more information, visit www.goldentones.org.