One group of local seniors is doing all they can to make people happy.
Moldaw Residences’ senior choral group, Moldaw Singers, recently performed a lighthearted concert for people of all ages.
The program, featuring 34 seniors – including former Los Altos residents Henry and Lottie Burger – kept attendees smiling and their toes tapping along to the theme “100 Years of Happy.”
Their director and fellow resident at Moldaw, Linda Mankin, designates a special theme for the group’s concerts to keep them fresh and create unique experiences for both the performers and the audience. In “100 Years of Happy,” the song selection spanned the past century and included cheerful tunes and a positive message. Accompanying the Moldaw Singers was guest performer Serena De Mello, 14, a student at Homestead High School, who joined them for a tap-dancing number to “Singin’ in the Rain.”
By the end of the program, audience members left on a happy note.
“Frankly, I got tired of sad songs like ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ and ‘I’ll Never Smile Again’ and operas where the main characters die at the end,” Mankin said. “I figured that we didn’t need that and vowed that we would do a program of only happy songs – thus, it became ‘100 Years of Happy.’”
Mankin has been sharing her expertise in music by teaching the singers proper technique for nearly three years. Armed with an undergraduate degree in music education from New York University, a master’s degree in music composition from Stanford University and 30 years of teaching experience in the music department of Foothill College, Mankin knows how to make melodies.
Moldaw Singers opened their concert with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” by Irving Berlin, a major hit in 1911 that stayed on the charts for decades. Then they went from the 1949 showtune “Happy Talk” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” to the Beatles’ 1969 song “Here Comes the Sun” and the 2014 hit song “Happy” by singer and producer Pharrell Williams. The group performed “Happy” not only in English, but also in Hebrew to the words “Adon Olam,” a metrical hymn in Jewish liturgy. Several of the residents performed solos, and accompanist Maddaline Edstrom sang a short solo section as well.
“You’d be surprised how many of the singers thanked me for programming happy songs,” Mankin said. “They are all dedicated participants in the chorus and deserve a lot of credit for their hard work and enthusiasm.”
Mankin added that she already has some “fun ideas” for upcoming programs in the new year, but she’s not ready to divulge the topics just yet.
“I like to keep them guessing,” she laughed.
According to Darren Trisel, executive director at Moldaw Residences, Moldaw Singers is one of many groups around the senior campus that allows individuals the opportunity to stay engaged and involved with an atmosphere of support and camaraderie.
“It is so important for everyone to have something that motivates them to learn more and keeps them genuinely excited with a resulting sense of accomplishment, no matter their age,” he said. “That is what this group does for those who rehearse and perform together.”
Moldaw Residences is located on the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, 899 E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto. For more information, call 433-3600 or visit moldaw.org.