A lifelong love of music will be channeled through a 20th anniversary year as the Tillsonburg Seniors Centre Singers take to their risers for their annual spring concert Friday, May 2 in the Tillsonburg Lions Auditorium.
“Singing is excellent for a healthy heart and body and it enriches your mind and soul and makes your forget your worries temporarily,” said director Rachel Parker.
Twenty years ago, she and husband Jack founded the group in 1995 as two of 10 pioneering singers, a half-dozen or so who are still active. Rachel’s musical vision of a combination of hymns, Broadway musical show tunes, gospel and contemporary tunes in repertoire proved so popular the ensemble had grown to 35 by 1977, and currently stands at a blended group of 75 soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices.
The Senior Centre Singers produce two major concerts per year, a spring event at the fore of May and a popular Christmas performance in December, typically drawing audiences of between 400 and 500. On occasion, their daughter Stephanie has attended, adding a crowd-please solo of O Holy Night to the event.
The group also has appeared over the years at events including world days of prayer, charity concerts for Cystic Fibrosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease and the Tsunami disaster, various churches including St. Paul’s Presbyterian, Church of the Latter Day Saints’ opening ceremony, a Christmas celebration at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, at Norwich Baptist Church, Avondale United’s 150th Anniversary in 1999 and Tillsonburg First Baptist’s 150th in 2003; at the official designation of the Annandale National Historic Site in 2000, and at Rachel Parker’s 2003 Tillsonburg Citizen of the Year ceremony.
For years, manager and stage crew chairman Jack Parker and a volunteer stage crew (consisting of the male singers) erected their own wooden risers constructed by Jack and Ken Holland in the Tillsonburg Senior Centre auditorium, and from 2002 onward, inside the Lion’s Auditorium. More recently, aluminum risers have been rented from Kitchener (transported free of charge courtesy of Verne’s Carpet One), but are still erected and taken down by the crew the morning following Friday performances.
Inspired by Jack and Rachel Parker’s visit to the Stephen Lewis Foundation office in Toronto, the singers have been donating a portion of their proceeds to Lewis’s ‘Grandmothers to Grandmothers’ foundation, which combats the AIDS epidemic in Africa by supporting grandmothers forced to raise grandchildren by the death or incapacity of their parents due to the disease. To date, the Tillsonburg Senior Centre Singers have donated $18,000 to the cause.
Rachel Parker is grateful to members of the public who attend the concerts, allowing the group to cover expenses and contribute to a worthy cause in the pursuit of an activity they all enjoy.
“Thanks to our audiences for all your support and thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to perform and share our love of music with you.”
This year’s concert will open at 7:30 p.m. under the direction of Rachel Parker, manager Jack Parker and accompanied by Lynn Archdekin and Carol Ferguson. Tickets are $12 and available from any singer or at the seniors centre, 519-688-2520.
“Help us make our anniversary year a special one by attending our concert,” Rachel Parker concluded. “We’d love a full house again.”