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  • Ashley Simpkins

The Singing Connection

The Singing Connection was born in February 2003. In response to a request for an accompanist, by a senior member of Del Mar Community Connections, Charlotte Gumbrell, I enthusiastically replied “count me in” and we were off! Charlotte assembled a large book of song lyrics for us to use. Lyrics, not music, that’s right! Many in the group don’t ‘read’ music, but we all ‘hear’ it and know the release, the joy we feel when opening our hearts and voices in song. We are still singing together 21 years later. Since we are a well-aged group, we’ve been able to support each other, through illness and loss, help banish stress, and replace tension with relaxation. While many of the original members have passed on, and several others have suffered the indignities of dementia, a few of the original members along with many newcomers are still singing together 21 years later. We meet monthly around my grand piano, just for the pleasure it brings to us as we recall our personal histories and remember the people who have influenced our long lives through the music we’ve learned.


When the CoVid 19 pandemic interrupted our ability to sing together in person, we tried our best to join our voices via Zoom. We were totally out of sync and did almost more laughing than singing, but what a joy it was to see those familiar, friendly faces with their voices all reaching out to each other for companionship. It was a heart-warming response to an isolating experience.


Several months later, we decided it might be better, but still safe, to sing outdoors on my deck. This meant we were unable to sing around a piano, but a long-time singer, Susie Stevenson, graciously donated an electronic keyboard for my use. The group grew smaller…it was, after all, pretty chilly and not very private on the deck…but that was not enough discouragement to keep us from singing. The construction workers on a nearby project, took great pleasure in dancing on a roof as we sang “Feliz Navidad,” and I was told that several dog-walking neighbors smiled as the ocean breeze carried our music to the street. During these early CoVid days, I even rewrote the lyrics to two familiar songs, “When Delta’s Gone” (“Delta Dawn”) and “The Twelve Gifts of Covid” (“The Twelve Days of Christmas”), helping us to make the best of the unfamiliar and lonely experience we all shared.


Now it’s February 8, 2024, and eighteen singers are arranged around the perimeter of my living room ready to sing, almost exactly 4 years since we last gathered inside, in February 2020. As I look around the room, I realize that there are at least six newcomers to the group, standing ready to sing. I suggest that we introduce ourselves to each other; I look at the two most recent arrivals and say, “Let’s begin with you and move clockwise around the room.” The first newcomer calls out “I’m Dolly.” One of the long-time singers, with a mischievous gleam in her eye, responds “Hello, Dolly!” Hah! I strike a G-major chord and we’re off: “Hello, Dolly, well Hello, Dolly, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong!” We sing the entire song and now we’re in high spirits as we continue around the room with Terry, Karen, Tina, Cynthia, and thirteen others.


None of these other names bring a song title to mind, so we simply continue with some of our favorites: “Sing!”, that song that we all learned from Sesame Street, and sang with our children, fifty years ago; a medley from “Show Boat” (written 100 years ago!); “What a Wonderful World”, that Louis Armstrong favorite; some two-part Irving Berlin favorites, “Play a Simple Melody” and “I Hear Music”; songs from The Sound of Music and The Music Man. Note that there’s a theme here!


We’re connecting, not just with each other, but with the family members, parents, and grandparents, who taught us these songs, essentially writing the musical scores for our lives. 4:00 comes too soon and we end with “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You” and “I’ll Be Seeing You”. Everyone is smiling, relaxed, and filled with happiness. We can barely wait to be back together next month!

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