Go on tour with two-dozen talented seniors who remain young in spirit.
Prepare to be surprised, delighted and entertained by the inspiring members of the Young@Heart Chorus, a New England senior citizens' chorus that has delighted audiences worldwide with their renditions of songs by everyone from The Clash to Coldplay. As Stephen Walker’s critically acclaimed documentary begins, the retirees, led by their demanding musical director, are rehearsing their new show, struggling with Sonic Youth’s dissonant rock anthem “Schizophrenia” and giving new meaning to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” What ultimately emerges is a funny and unexpectedly moving testament to friendship, creative inspiration, and expectations defied. Independent Lens presents Young@Heart, airing Tuesday, January 12 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11).
Young@Heart chronicles seven unforgettable weeks in the lives of the members of the Young@Heart Chorus as they prepare for a one-night-only concert in their hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts. Guided by longtime director and Rochester native Bob Cilman, the group is made up of two-dozen spirited seniors—former schoolteachers, executives, doctors and food service workers—who specialize in reinterpreting rock, punk and R&B classics from their unique perspective.
With less than two months to go until the concert, the performers struggle with the new lyrics and unfamiliar melodies of seven new songs. During their thrice-weekly rehearsals, they gradually take possession of music ranging from R&B classics like Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” to Coldplay’s emotionally powerful ballad “Fix You,” upending assumptions about old age, love, sex, and death.
Starting out as a lighthearted look at a quirky musical group, the film gains unexpected gravitas when two members of the chorus die within days of each other, and the lyrics of the group’s repertoire take on powerful new significance. From 92-year-old war bride Eileen Hall’s rousing rendition of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” to Pat Linderme’s moving interpretation of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” each performance responds to the ravages of age with startling emotional depth. And after almost two months of shooting, the Young@Heart Chorus delivers a triumphant performance that celebrates the joy of music and the lives of their lost friends. The end result is an inspirational journey with a singular group of people who may be old in body, but refuse to grow old in spirit.
Rochester native and Brighton High School graduate Bob Cilman performs the Young@Heart choral direction. Besides directing the Chorus, Cilman is also the Executive Director of the Northhampton Arts Council where he presents a broad range of arts events at the historic Academy of Music Theatre.