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Singing songs of life

The songs were familiar and it was obvious that the melodies brought back memories of times long ago to those who sat and listened.

Some residents of Magnolia Wood Lodge gently tapped their fingers on the table and, every now and then, a toe would tap in time to the music. Sometimes lips would mouth the words - those that could be remembered - and others sang quietly along.

The Seniors' Choir at the Lillian Green Nutrition Center has a familiar sound for those who grew up singing and listening to old-time gospel music.

For others, it's a sound that might seem a little rough around the edges, but, for some reason, "it gets to you."

"What we sing is old-time gospel music because that's what we grew up on and that's what we enjoy," said Calvin Head. "And, we don't know anything else."

Head has been a member of the Seniors' since it was formed about 15 years ago. Most of the members have had no formal training in music. In fact, many of them don't even read music. But, they all have one thing in common. They sing from the heart.

"That's the way we learned to sing and that's the only way we know how to sing," Head said. "Our music is kind of like seven-note singing - kind of like."

The number of members in the choir on a particular day depends on who's sick, gone for a doctor's appointment or away visiting their children.

"We operate on a 'come when you can' basis," Head said. "We never have too few to sing or too many."

Head said singing with the seniors' choir is more than just singing. It's a trip back in time for those who sing and, often, for those who listen.

"The songs start me thinking about the time when I was growing up," he said. "Sometimes, I'll be singing but thinking about plowing a mule, picking cotton, killing hogs,

gathering eggs - a dozen things we did on the farm. These songs stir memories of my childhood and they are very special memories."

Head said those in the audience often will mouth the words to the songs.

"When they do, I think they are remembering, too," he said. "It would be hard for those of us who grew up with this kind of music not to be moved by it. It's a blessing."

Head calls the choir's music, fellowship music or fellowship harmony.

"You can't sing it or hear it without feeling the spirit of the music," he said. "It refreshes our spirits and rekindles our souls. It's very special to all of us."

The choir often shares the blessings of its music with churches, nursing homes and at special events.

"Some people have not heard our kind of music - the old time gospel music - but everyone is familiar with the traditional hymns and we sing those, too," Head said. "If those songs don't touch your heart and soul, I don't know what will."

Nell King agreed fully with Head.

She has been playing piano for the choir on Wednesdays for six years and every time she plays, she is lifted up in song.

"These are wonderful people and my day is blessed by being with them and hearing them sing," she said. "We have a good time and a spiritual time. The time I spend with them inspires me. They share their messages and their love through songs. I am proud to have the opportunity to be a part of their group. They are very special people and they provide a loving service to our community."

The Seniors' Choir sings at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Lillian Green Nutrition Center at the Colley Senior Complex on Elm Street. The public is invited to come and listen or join the fellowship music.