Sexy and Senior
May 11, 2006
The Young@Heart Chorus retools Radiohead--proving that you're never too old to rock.
The Young@Heart Chorus giving it up for rock.
Sure, the idea of a chorus entirely made up of senior citizens singing "young people's music" by Radiohead, The Clash and even Outkast sounds gimmicky. Shock value and the same sort of fascination with the bizarre that drives the reality television industry both play their parts in drawing audiences to see the Young@Heart Chorus, but the group has proven that it is more than just an unusual, clever idea. While gimmicks alone might be enough to explain a few sold-out performances, the Northampton-based group has been packing venues since the early "80s and has toured extensively at home and abroad.
The group's music director, Bob Cilman, attributes the chorus' staying power not to cheap tricks, but to the group's stage performance. "We stage the work," Cilman explains. "It's kind of a problem that it sounds gimmicky at first, because they're not doing it in a cutesy way. They do it well; they reinterpret the songs. Once people hear them, they see it's not a gimmick."
It was certainly more than gimmicks that drew British filmmaker David Walker and producer Sally George of Bluebird Films to the chorus. Walker and George have been commissioned by the UK's Channel 4 to make a documentary on Young@Heart, which is scheduled to air across Britain in September 2006, with plans for worldwide distribution. The film follows the group through the rehearsal process, culminating with their performance later this month at the Academy of Music in Northampton.
It's truly amazing to hear the Young@Heart radically recontextualize some of rock music's most familiar and well-worn tunes. Songs that have become little more than clichés and fodder for hipsters' inside jokes (e.g., "Stairway to Heaven") suddenly sound new again, reminding us of why they were such huge hits to begin with.