Kimmel Center

Seniors will belt out the songs at Kimmel Center concert

By Ruth Rovner
Correspondent to Main Line Media News
This Saturday afternoon, May 5, a group of energetic singers will present a free concert at the Kimmel Center. The wide-ranging program includes Broadway show tunes plus songs made famous by cabaret stars.

The singers will belt out all these numbers with youthful zest - but they are not youngsters. Instead, they are members of the New Horizons Senior Glee Club, and their ages range from 60's to 92. That nonagenarian of the group is Sister Nell Carbin of Bryn Mawr, who celebrated her 92nd birthday in March.

"She's as vigorous as any of us," says music director Selma Savitz of Bala Cynwyd, a 75-year-old dynamo herself who has led the group ever since its founding 22 years ago. The versatile Music Director is also the club's pianist.

It's an all-volunteer group, and they maintain a busy schedule performing at area retirement homes, churches, synagogues and schools.
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This is the club's seventh appearance on the Commonwealth Plaza stage at the Kimmel Center. They perform every May during Older Americans Month.

The theme of this year's concert is "Broadway Lights, Cabaret Nights". The 35 singers, accompanied by instrumentalists, will perform solos, a duet, and ensemble numbers.

The program features classics from Broadway shows, including "I Could Have Danced All Night" from "My Fair Lady" and signature songs made famous by cabaret singers like Lena Horn ("Stormy Weather") and Barbra Streisand. ("People")
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For another segment of the program, four soloists will perform memorable songs from classic Broadway hits. One soloist is Linda Schwartz of Bala Cynwyd, whose rendition of "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun," from "Annie Get Your Gun" has been a show-stopper all season.

"It's a fun song, it's upbeat, and we all have fun with it," says Schwartz.

When she steps into the spotlight, Schwartz will be wearing a red cowgirl hat and black cowboy boots. She'll carry an umbrella which she'll open when she sings the lines "The girls with umbrellas/Are always out with fellas."

She'll even tote a gun - a toy one, of course - and she'll swing it around at the beginning of her song.

Besides the props, it's her voice and energy that have captivated audiences all season. "When I start to sing, I really get into it, and there's nothing else around me," says the 70-year-old soloist, who 10 years ago sang opera at the Bryn Mawr Conservatory.

"She's probably our most dynamic singer," says Savitz, who chose Schwartz for the solo. "She exudes music from every pore. And she thoroughly enjoys putting across this solo for any audience."

Schwartz joined New Horizons seven years ago after a friend invited her to hear them perform. She's been a loyal member ever since.

"I was enthralled right away," she recalls. "Everyone looked so happy, and they seemed ageless to me."

She eagerly volunteered to join the group, and still recalls the first rehearsal with the group.

"They were having such fun," she says. "There was such camaraderie, and they were such a beautiful group of people."

"Music can be such an important part of life," she says. "It helps to rejuvenate all of us."

The group maintains a busy performance schedule. Their schedule for the spring includes 18 different concerts. They've been to senior centers such as the Upper Darby Senior Center and Martin's Run. But they also perform for young audiences such as their recent gig at the AIM School in Conshohocken - an elementary school for students with special learning needs.

"They loved our concert!" reports Savitz. "They were so excited to see the instruments and hear the songs."

For youthful audiences, the 45 minute program, called "Kids on Stage", includes songs from Broadway shows featuring children, such as "Annie" and "Oliver."

Besides the music itself, there is value in the inter-generational aspect, says Savitz. "We're probably older than their own grandparents, and they see us 'oldsters' as enthusiastic performers," she says. "And we're presenting songs that they wouldn't otherwise hear."

The seniors have also formed a special bond with the audience at the Veterans Administration (VA) in Coatesville. ""They've been wildly receptive to us," says Savitz, noting that they've been invited back for the third time.

On Flag Day, June 14, the seniors will present a special program titled "Stars and Stripes Canteen" for the VA audience.

"It's a tribute to the great entertainers of World War II such as Bob Hope, plus traditional patriotic music which honors all branches of the armed forces."

But right now the focus is on the Kimmel Center concert this Saturday, when the youthful performers present "Broadway Lights, Cabaret Nights". As in past years, they'll undoubtedly captivate their audience- both loyal fans and newcomers- with their spirit, energy and talent.

"The Kimmel Center concert is always very special," says director Savitz. "We're celebrating Older Americans Month. It's also a chance to perform for our friends, neighbors, family members and other guests. So we always give a top notch performance."

Main Line Senior Glee Club to Perform at Kimmel Center
(This is an excerpt from a Main Line Media News article dated May 18, 2011 - Click on title to link to full article.)

by Ruth Rovner
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One of the soloists is Anita Beckett of Merion. Her solo is part of a segment titled “Tough Guys, Femmes Fatale.” She sings “Sooner or Later” from the movie “Dick Tracy.”

“I’m the seductress who’s out to get Dick Tracy,” Beckett explained.

Wearing a long blonde wig, the 74-year-old singer will play her role to the hilt, vamping her way through the solo.

“It was quite a challenge the first time I sang it,” Beckett recalled. “It’s not the usual lilting melody, but getting into the vamp mood was fun.”

She practiced diligently to perfect her delivery.

“I sang in the shower, in the car, wherever I could,” Beckett said.

Then she went online and found a rendition of Madonna doing the same solo.

“So Madonna and I sang it over and over.”

The determined singer approached the solo with the same serious focus that she utilized as captain of Temple’s fencing team.

Besides her solo, Beckett has another role: She’s the emcee who introduces the numbers and gives background details. (The regular emcee, Winifred Moss, was sidelined because of knee replacement surgery.) She shares this role with glee club member Randy Shupp.

Beckett joined New Horizons six years ago. After 34 years in special education, Beckett retired in 2000. She then spent several years enjoying retirement with her husband Samuel. After he passed away in 2005, she joined New Horizons.

“At first, I was somewhat intimidated,” she said. “I’m not a musician; I don’t read music; and I felt there was a lot of talent in the group.”

She sang tentatively at first, but other members encouraged her to sing out — and she did. She soon became a stand-in for soloists when they couldn’t perform; now she has her own solo.

The glee club’s name, New Horizons, is certainly fitting of Beckett’s experience.

“I found myself in a new situation, and it opened new doors in my life,” she said. “It doesn’t mean I’m going on Broadway, but it’s shown me a new facet of my personality.”

And that will be on display at the Kimmel Center this Saturday.

“There’s a sense of excitement about singing at the Kimmel Center,” Beckett said. “But other concerts are equally satisfying; every time we give a concert, I feel good that we’re bringing enjoyment to other people.”
Ruth Rovner

Seniors bring glee to Kimmel Center