After years of writing articles about the Pittsburg Multi-Generational Chorus as a Globe reporter, I finally got the chance to be a member myself at age 46. That was 2016, and it included my then-16-year-old son, who was new to singing, and my 76-year-old mother, a life-long singer.
Now, in 2019, I’m in Year 4, singing with my 14-year-old son and my 79-year-old mother, and you can do the math on what my age soon will be.
The cool thing is, though, that I basically feel the same age as I did when I began, and I’d wager most of the “olders” — the community members in the choir — do, too. Or at least we do on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during rehearsal. Time seems to suspend for us when we’re on the risers at PHS (the same high school I attended!), and I suspect it’s because we’re surrounded by dozens of high school students whose energy, enthusiasm, and talent are contagious.
You can hear us all, some 150+ voices ages 14 to 80+, in concert on Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m., in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. It’s a concert you do not want to miss. Let me repeat: You. Do. Not. Want. To. Miss.
For the first time, we’re singing as a show choir — that is to say, we’ve learned dance moves for nearly all of the songs, and the theme is one of my favorite decades: the 1970s!
I was born in a zero year and loved the hits produced in that decade. I first remember hearing them from the backseat of my dad’s Oldsmobile on the way to visit my grandparents, until we got out of range for the radio station. My middle school years meant listening to those hits on vinyl for hours on end in my bedroom, then moving to cassette tapes and a Walkman (what an invention! I could take it with me on car trips to Grandmas, and fall asleep to it under the covers!).
When the CD mail-order clubs began (how many did we get to choose for just one penny?!), I upgraded. In recent years, those playlists are now on my phone and can be synced to my car via bluetooth.
My method of listening to them may have changed, but the songs have not: they’re still fantastic, and it’s super to see young people totally digging them. Queen, BeeGees, ABBA, Elton John, Kansas, the Doobie Brothers, The Doors, the Eagles, Paul McCartney, Chicago — they’re all there, just like they were in my childhood as the soundtrack to moments both ordinary and special.
I look around the choir room at the faces of the “olders,” from Susie Taylor who is featured in Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, to Clayton Campbell who is featured in “Lay Down Sally” by Eric Clapton, and I wonder what they were doing when those songs were hits. Do they bring back memories for them?
Jamie Ortolani, a longtime local musician, was a student at PHS in the ‘70s. He’s been involved for four years with Multi-Gen, but this year is special: All four members of his family — Jenny David Ortolani (Class of ‘86), Josh Ortolani (Class of ‘21), and Andrew Ortolani (Class of ‘17) are participating. Jenny and Josh are singers and Jamie and Andrew are musicians in the J3 Band, which accompanies us live along with the House Band and Johnny Rose.
“I love being involved with the other Pittsburg residents of all ages in these shows,” said Jamie, whose favorite number is Ramblin’ Man. “Another bonus is to get the opportunity to be in a production directed by Susan Laushman.”
It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s worth one hour of your time, it’s free. However, please consider making a donation at the door to help us offset the expenses associated with renting the facility.
Can YOU dig it? Yes you can!
— Andra Bryan Stefanoni is a lifelong Pittsburg resident and arts enthusiast. She is the director of media relations at Pittsburg State University. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org