The Moldaw Singers performed “A Biblical Songfest” concert at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto last month, an auditory and visual showcase that included a slideshow.
The group comprises nearly 40 singers in their 80s and 90s, including former Los Altos residents, who live at Moldaw Residences, the retirement community in Palo Alto.
Singing on key
Linda Mankin, 85, who earned a master’s degree in music composition from Stanford University, works hard to ensure that seniors in the Moldaw Singers choral group are on key and having fun.
The 12 songs featured at the concert were based on Bible stories, including “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,” “Little David Play Your Harp” and “Sit Down, Sister,” some performed in Hebrew and Latin.
Resident Council President Henry Burger, 87, a former Los Altos resident and member of the Moldaw Singers, said he and his wife, Lottie, were excited to bring the show to the JCC’s Cultural Arts Hall, next door to Moldaw Residences.
“My wife and I love performing with the Moldaw Singers,” Burger said. “Our group leader and Moldaw resident, Linda, works so hard with us and really helps us prepare, even though some members have never sung before. Our practices and performances are just other ways for everyone to get together and enjoy each other’s company – and that’s important.”
Mankin assumed leadership of the group two years ago and has experienced success with the senior singers. She continues to attend conferences that inspire her and give her ideas and tips to share with the group. She recently attended a conference in San Francisco hosted by the Acoustical Society of America and came back with renewed enthusiasm to help improve the group’s performances.
“Witnessing the progress of this group has been confirmation of my belief that music can be a lifelong source of pride and pleasure,” Mankin said. “I would encourage anyone who used to sing or play an instrument to never give it up. It could be one of the greatest pleasures of your life.”
Standing room only
The Moldaw Singers include eight to 10 male vocalists and approximately 30 women. Mankin noted members’ increased sense of loyalty and dedication over time as they rehearsed and performed together. The group practiced every Monday night for nearly two hours, and what started as few participants has grown into a popular performing group whose shows are typically standing room only.
The concert theme “A Biblical Songfest” came naturally to Mankin. For a number of years, she has attended weekly Torah classes at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. Mankin said she finds the stories fascinating and the songs written about them beautiful. Believing that people of all ages and religions can relate to them, Mankin added that she chose the theme with confidence.
“We’d been excited to show the community how hard we’ve been practicing and how talented our group is through such special songs with this biblical theme,” Burger said.
The Moldaw Singers are gearing up for their 2014 season, with Mankin planning to incorporate techniques she learned at a recent conference to help the senior singers produce more tone.
“According to several presenters,” Mankin said, “there is a tendency among some seniors to think that they sound louder than they do, which may be due to the feedback they get from their hearing aids or to the natural decline in the production of their vocal chords.”
Mankin said conference presenters suggested that she pass around a hand-held personal recorder, a smartphone perhaps, and allow the seniors actually to hear themselves. For those more visually oriented, an app shows a picture of the soundsignal as they sing, giving them input on the strength of their sound versus time.
“We never stop learning,” she said, “and I’m anxious to share these new methods with the group.”
For more information on Moldaw Residences, call 433-3600 or visit moldaw.org.