Parkinson’s disease may have robbed Phil Ranch of his speech, but not his singing voice. Every Thursday afternoon, his wife Sue drops him off at the Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre for choir rehearsal. He has been attending for a year and a half Ms Ranch says it is “the highest spot” in his week.
“They look after Phil while I’m gone, they’re very caring,” she said. “Parkinson’s very much affects his speaking but he is able to sing, and he absolutely enjoys it, and it is very good for his speech.”
The Young at Heart Choir has been rehearsing once a week at the neighbourhood centre for several years now, but it is worried about dwindling funding. For all those involved, the weekly meeting is more than just a throaty sing-along – it is a meaningful friendship circle.
Bhavani Baumann, the group’s coordinator-cum-conductor, is worried that might be lost if cash isn’t found soon. She has organised a public performance and fundraiser later this month.
“For a lot of these people it is a social gathering they look forward to, as many live alone and some have medical conditions,” she said. “As well as singing we have some tea and sweet treats after every session, which usually results in a lot of chatting and laughing. I often find that some arrive a bit despondent and leave with a spring in their step.”
The group applied for a grant during Seniors Week in March, and received only half of the requested $2000 from the local council. Each member pays a small entrance fee, but the choir mainly relies on donations to cover administrative costs, which include room hire, lyric sheets and large reading cards.
Holly Stewart, the venue manager, applauds the choir’s dedication, noting that while “they’re looking to support themselves, they’re always looking for funding”.
The Young at Heart Choir will perform from 3pm Sunday 28th July at the Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre. Entry is $10 will include refreshments and raffle prizes.
By Robin Marshall