Seniors Are Singing Praises Of Lost Musical Inhibitions

Countians Get Chance To Live Out Their Vocal Fantasies

June 02, 1991|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Staff writer

Although Ruth Taukulis, 68, doesn't fancy herself a lounge lizard, she had no qualms about getting up in front of 45 fellow seniors to belt out an Elvis Presley tune.

Or hug the microphone to croon PattiPage's "Tennessee Waltz."

The occasion was a special event sponsored by the Florence Bain Senior Center Thursday afternoon that gave Taukulis and everyone else there the opportunity to be a recording star for a day.

Joystar Productions, a Columbia-based company, offered its services without charge to the center, supplying more than 1,400 fully orchestrated musical selections ranging from "Great Balls of Fire" to "Singing In The Rain" -- minus the lead vocalist. Only the background vocals are left.

"We like to give the average person a chance to sing," said Joy DeMuth, who owns Joystar with her husband, Don. "Most people, when they see bands, dream of singing along. We give them the chance of doingit, of being a star for about three minutes."

Microphone in hand,Taukulis and other participating seniors read the lyrics of their selected songs off of two television monitors. The lyrics are super-imposed on specially made music videos that are custom-tailored to the song. The words are also color highlighted to the tempo and the key can be adjusted to suit the singer's range.

Joystar also offers a complimentary cassette tape of the performance to anyone who gets up and sings.

"I enjoy it, I like the nice songs," said Taukulis, a Columbia grandmother who made her debut last Christmas at Joystar's second visit to the center. "I can make other people happy, too, when I do it. But it takes me a while to get going."

Although most never got going at all, everyone clearly had a good time, rocking in their seats or swing-dancing to "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," and joining an impromptu chorus line, kicking their feet to "New York, New York."

TheDeMuths, who are self-proclaimed hams, worked the room, often singing from table to table, urging reluctant seniors to join in or get up by themselves.

"Seniors sometimes just sit," said Joy DeMuth, 38, whose mother, Mary Clarkson, is a volunteer at the center. "They don't like moving around. All we've got to do is get the right song to get them up and sing."

When that right song was unavailable for senior Betty Ireland, she took hold of the mike anyway, and told the audience, "I'm going to sing a song for you." And she did, hammering out "You Are My Sunshine" -- without benefit of music.

Nor did anyone have to go it alone. Center program coordinator Donna Lansman and senior Jackie Dunphy of Columbia performed an off-key duet of "Baby Face."

This is the third time the DeMuths have brought their show to the senior center.

"The seniors requested it," said Lansman, 32. "Participation grows every time they come. They have a following here."

Joystar came to the center last December and in 1989, and plans to return next Christmas.

"The seniors are livelier at Christmas time," said Lansman. "They use it as gifts for their kids, singing Christmas carols on the tapes. They may come on with their husbands or the men in our house band will do big group numbers."

Joy DeMuth agreed. "At Christmas time, they're in a more festive mood. Sometimes it's hard to get (the crowd) to warm up."

Her husband, Don, 40, explained Joystar's appeal.

"Inside of all of us is a performer. It's like at home when you turn the radio up four notches and belt out a song. The average, every day person gets to live a fantasy."

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