On a slightly cloudy Wednesday morning last week, East County Senior Center visitors were met with the rolling melodies sung by an unseen live choir.
Members of the Village Voices, many of whom have been singing together for nearly 15 years, were in the corner of the cafeteria, moving through tunes during their weekly practice session. New director Krista Bement paused periodically at the end of a measure to tweak the approach and offer some instruction.
“OK, let’s roll that chord again,” she would say, and “I want your voice to shimmer there.”
Throughout the hour the group tackled “My America,” “The Sound of Silence” and “A Gaelic Blessing,” which Bement calls “a college-level piece.”
“No, this is fun; it’s just harder,” Bement said. The seasoned performers could handle it. Most members were music educators and musicians before retirement, she said.
“I think they were probably all choir geeks in their past,” Bement said, who may more easily spot the type, being a longtime teacher and vocalist herself, and current member of the Ensign Symphony and Chorus that performs at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.
“We just like to sing, most of us have sung all of our lives, whether that be in a choral or choir group,” said longtime member Chris Himes. “We have just sung all the time. Just because we are at a senior center doesn’t mean we have to stop singing.”
George Bornkamp, one of the newest to the group — having joined six years ago — said the average membership ranges from 15-20 people, and most have been singing in the Village Voices for 8-12 years. Only about a dozen people have been showing up lately though, he said.
While turnover is minimal, occasionally members will leave to take care of a medical condition, or pass away, Bornkamp said. Right now they are recruiting tenors, but would be happy to add another alto, soprano or bass to the mix. He added no one has to be of a certain age to join.
Sheet music has been donated and purchased over the years, but the group is always looking to acquire more, he said.
Bement said she has been coaching a very cohesive group for the past few months. She said she sees music as a way for people to spend time with something a little brighter than the discouraging stories told all over the news channels.
“I think music is a great unifier and that music, listening to music, playing music, no matter what end you are on, it brings the human soul joy,” she said.
Bornkamp echoed Bement’s sentiments. He said he has stayed for so long to be with his wife, Gloria Robinson, one of the choir’s founders and the piano player, and spend time on something purely enjoyable.
“Boy, singing is very uplifting. When you are singing, you are concentrating on your voice and the words, and not thinking of your problems,” he said. “It’s happy. It’s very, very uplifting and healthy.”
Himes said the group averages 15 performances annually at different locations throughout the Sky Valley area, including Gold Bar’s Gold Dust Days, the Sultan Senior Center, Regency Care in Monroe, and on down in Totem Lake, Redmond and Everett.
Performances are sometimes spiced up with stand-up comedy and impromptu dance numbers, she said with a laugh.
“We are crazy; I think that is why we stay together,” she said. “We are all so goofy.”