Wandering Minstrels Prove Music's Medicinal Powers

April 09, 1992|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing writer

Although all eight are retired, one could hardly tell by their work schedules.

At ages ranging from 65 to 88, the Wandering Minstrels work a full week, putting on their hour-long shows. Every month, the Minstrels visit five nursing homes, three senior centers and two day care centers.

Why devote all this time? The answer is simple:

"The people like it when we come," said Sue Collins, 72.

In the beginning, the Minstrels played only at the Fairfield Nursing Center in Crownsville. Soon, other centers wanted the show, propelling them to take their act on the road.

Retired Adm. Frank Frankenberger, who founded the group 14 years ago, leads the musical entourage, playing a variety of instruments. "He picks all the songs," said 72-year old bass player Ed Collins.

Guitar player Red Slaven, a retired Navy captain, and pianist Edith Courtesen, accompany the admiral -- both without glancing at the sheet music.

Sitting on the sidelines, their audiences clap and sing. Joann Holis, Cathy Pringle, Sue Collins and Mary Hartenburger roam about the room, encouraging audience participation. Sometimes, the clapping seniors stand and dance.

The Minstrels bring recollections of a bygone time to the seniors.

"It provides great stimulation for them. For Alzheimer's residents, it stimulates memory," said Randy Shortsberg of the Crofton Convalescent Center, pointing toward an Alzheimer's patient singing every word to "Meet Me In St. Louis" in time with the band.

Employees at Crofton said the music hasa "calming effect" on patients. Sal, 85, an energetic resident at the center, perpetually wanders the halls. But on the day of the Minstrels' performance, he remains riveted to the music, floating in and out of the room only briefly.

Alice Fallon, 82, a Crofton Convalescent Center resident, appreciates the Minstrels' performance. She has seen them monthly for over two years.

"I think it's wonderful," shesaid. "I look forward to them because they bring me back. They're sofaithful. It does something for the people."

The husband-and-wifeteam of Sue and Edward Collins say the response from the seniors is the reward for the group.

"Seniors are wonderful ego builders. That's why we keep going. These people give us a lift," said Sue Collins.

The show is not limited to "older" music, however. Hawaiian and patriotic tunes are performed with equal enthusiasm. Birthday wishes are not forgotten, either: on a patient's birthday, the troupe will be sure to sing a robust version of "Happy Birthday" to the senior.

After singing "Hail to the Redskins", in tribute to a deceased band member's love for the Redskins, they end each performance with a final song and thought:

"We love to spend this hour with you

As friend to friend . . . Now, we must go,

But we'll call again."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.