Forever Young seniors choir rocks out on stage to Bon Jovi and AC/DC

(ABC Central Victoria: Mark Kearney)
For June Ellis and her husband, Cliff, the repertoire is a far cry from what they perform as long-serving members of their church choir.”I usually go from practice here on Thursday morning with rock and roll, to the church choir at night singing sacred songs, so I have variety,” Mrs Ellis said.Vocal support from famous artist

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ARIA Award-wining Kate Ceberano performs her song, Pash, with the choir of over-65s. (ABC Central Victoria: Mark Kearney)
At 91 years of age, Frank Roberts is among the choir’s most senior members, and has performed with Forever Young since its inception eight years ago.”In old age, you have to have something to do, you’ve got to remain as active as you can,” he said.Forever Young was a re-introduction to singing for Mr Roberts, who said he had not performed a lot since a childhood stint in a church choir.He credited the choir with keeping him in good health and even better spirits.”I figure it keeps your lungs active with your breathing, plus if you get enjoyment out of it, it must be good for your health,” he said. Photo:
June Ellis (L) finds the rock and roll repertoire a welcome change from hymns at church. (ABC Central Victoria: Mark Kearney)
For the past four years, the choir has attracted well-known Australian musicians on to stage, including Normie Rowe, Wilbur Wilde and Mark Seymour.This year’s guest, Kate Ceberano, will sing several numbers with the choir, including a rendition of her raunchy hit, Pash.But the singer-songwriter said the community often forgot that sex, drugs and rock and roll were as much a part of older people’s lives as they were experiences of youth.”They actually lived through Sunbury. (ABC Central Victoria: Mark Kearney)
An orchestra of students from Bendigo school Girton Grammar provides musical accompaniment for the choir.Girton music teacher Laura Dusseljee, who founded the choir, said interactions between singers and school students made the experience more profound for both parties.”The youngsters love playing for the ‘oldies’, as they’re called affectionately by the children at school,” she said.”For the oldies, it’s time to get out, mingle, make friends, challenge their brains and their memories by learning new repertoire.”Also poignant is the way a song’s meaning changes when performed by a choir of senior citizens.In the hands of the choir, Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere becomes a bittersweet dissertation on old age.”If Freddie Mercury sings Who Wants to Live Forever, that’s one thing, but when you get someone in their eighties singing it, it changes the whole meaning of the song,” Ms Dusseljee said.Musical mindset good for health

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Frank Roberts, 91, says the Forever Young choir gives him purpose in later life. These are the people who were in their 20s when AC/DC hit,” she said.”We’re talking about people who are at the core of Australian rock.”Ceberano hoped those new to performing would use it as an opportunity to explore their talents and personalities.And not unlike the artists whose songs they perform, these ageing performers are not without some rock-star bravado.Asked whether he was excited to sing with Ceberano, Mr Roberts, with a wink, replied: “[The question is], is Kate Ceberano excited to be singing with us?” A choir of senior citizens performing a repertoire of rock songs is living proof you are never too old to try something new.The Forever Young choir in Bendigo, Victoria, has just one eligibility rule: singers must be aged 65 or older to take part.But it is their setlist that sets the 85-person choir apart from the pack.A sell-out concert at the 1,000-seat Ulumbarra Theatre this week opens with the Bon Jovi rock anthem You Give Love a Bad Name.Audiences leave with the sound of Aerosmith’s Dream On ringing in their ears.The choir even has its own roadie, a volunteer who plies the singers with snacks as well as making sure their uniforms — a black t-shirt featuring the group’s winged heart logo — are in good order.Meeting of the generations

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The choir’s founder, Laura Dusseljee, takes the 85 members of Forever Young through their final rehearsal before showtime.
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ABC Central Victoria

By Mark Kearney

Updated

September 19, 2018 12:58:46

Video: Seniors choir rocks out on stage to Bon Jovi and AC/DC

(ABC News)

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