Young at Heart Chorus presents its newest ‘Mash-Up’ concert, teaming for second time with the Chicago Children’s Choir

  • Members of the Young at Heart Chorus and the Chicago Children’s Choir perform during their 2014 “Mash-Up” concert in Northampton. Photo courtesy Bob Cilman/NCTV

For the Bulletin
Thursday, May 02, 2019

When it comes to bridging the generation gap, few do it better than the Young at Heart Chorus — and this weekend, the elderly singers are set to do it again.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Y@H will join the Chicago Children’s Choir at Northampton’s Academy of Music Theatre for “Mash-Up VII,” the seventh time Y@H has performed with a younger group of singers or musicians for a combined show.

The concert will also mark the second time Y@H has shared a stage with the Chicago Children’s Choir, a celebrated group dating to the civil rights era that has performed nationally and overseas, and whose audiences have included Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Desmond Tutu and other notable figures.

Bob Cilman, the veteran director and the founder of Y@H, says both groups share a commitment to changing lives through music, even if they’re coming from different stages of life.

And, notes Cilman, “One of the best collaborations we ever did [in 2014] was with the Chicago Children’s Choir because their director, Mollie Stone, is really fantastic.”

Stone, in a statement, said the children in her chorus had performed many times at senior centers in and around Chicago but had never actually sung alongside elderly singers until they came to Northampton to join Y@H — giving them their first opportunity to see their elders as fellow performers and collaborators.

“Our singers’ lives were transformed,” said Stone. “For the first time, they realized that the powerful experience of singing together and creating community within the context of an ensemble was a gift they could share for their entire lives.”

That’s not the first time the Y@H Chorus has impressed people. The group, formed in 1982, has performed nationwide and in Europe, New Zealand and Japan; been the subject of an award winning documentary; and performed with incarcerated individuals as part of its “PrisonVision” project.

Cilman says the chorus, whose members range in age from 75 to 91, interprets a wide range of music: pop, rock ‘n’ roll and contemporary.

“They re-interpret music of generations that they weren’t a part of necessarily,” he said. “They’re not singing music they grew up with.”

At Saturday’s show, the two groups will sing separately and together, covering songs by The Specials, Modest Yahoo, Manhattan Transfer, Sly and the Family Stone and others. In this year marking the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Y@H will also feature music from the famous outdoor concert, as part of a new show the chorus has begun touring.

Backing all the singers will by Y@H’s crack seven-member band, which Cilman says is made up of “some of the best musicians in the Valley.” Some band members will be honored at Saturday’s show, with Y@H showcasing the players’ original music.

“Mash-Up” concerts have been an annual event for Y@H since 2013; other performers the group has shared stages with include the PS22 Chorus of Staten Island, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and the SciTech Band of Springfield.

Tickets for Saturday’s show range from $20 to $50 and can be purchased at aomtheatre.com or by calling the Academy box office at (413) 584-9032, ext. 105.