Chicago Sun-Times
A community of voices on music, travel, foodways, sports and anything else that matters.

Young @ Heart ROCKS!

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

5:30 p.m. April 11----

As a life long fan of old school rhythm and blues and soul music it didn’t surprise me that the Young @ Heart chorus is more appreciated in Europe than in America. In my travels through Europe, Japan and Mexico I’ve found more interest in American roots music than in America. These are older places than the U.S.A. and the appreciation for history runs deeper.
Even the Zapp Band is considered out of date in the states.
The Young @ Heart choral group began in 1982 in an elderly housing project in Northampton, Mass. Nowadays members come from across the region. No original members remain. No one in the 24-voice chorus is under 72 years of age.
In keeping with the music/road motif of the Scratch Crib blog, link to Young @ Heart's take of the Talking Heads "Road to Nowhere":

Choral Director Bob Cilman came up with the idea of having his elder singers cover songs by David Bowie (think “Golden Years”), the Clash and Prince. This was around the same time that the timeless Duplex Planet pop culture magazine was born out of a nursing home in Boston. The group is now the shining stars of the resplendent Young @ Heart documentary which opens on April 18.......

....British filmmakers Sally George and Stephen Walker spent seven weeks following Cilman and the chorus as they learn songs such as Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” and James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” The theatrical group also takes their show on the road, appearing at a local high school and medium security jail.
“They’ve wanted to be known in America a little bit,” Cilman said during a stop in Chicago. “Because they’ve been so stuck in Europe. They always thought that was so weird. They wondered why there wasn’t any American interest.”
Walker added, “In Europe, the further south you go or the further east you go towards Asia, attitudes towards older people do begin to change. Japan does have a very different culture towards old people. I don’t know how this film will play in those countries. But when people see it, in 99 per cent of the cases, they get something very strong from it. They laugh, they cry.
“Getting them through the door is the difficult thing.”
Young@ Heart is known for its musical theater in Europe. As early as 1991 Young @ Heart collaborated with Northampton theater director Roy Faudree to present “Louis Lou I--A Revolting Musical,” a reinterpretation of the French Revolution using the songs of Frank Sinatra. There were more than 100 people involved in the production.
“Europeans are set up in a much different way to support the arts than America,” Cilman said. “They bring us over there and treat us fabulously. We went to France and that was scary. Everybody said ‘Okay, you guys made it everywhere else but France, they’re gonna’ hate you,’ because they’re too cynical and all that. The French were the best. First they really listened. These are theater pieces, not concerts. People can get rowdy and start clapping as if it is a concert. It throws you off your stride. The French sat quiet throughout the whole show and at the end they exploded. It was so beautiful to watch.”
The Young @ Heart documentary has met with critical acclaim in hipster American ports like Sundance and the SXSW music conferernce. Cilman said he did receive an American HBO pitch that wanted to follow Young @ Heart on a European tour. He wouldn’t do that. “The people who do the theater work aren’t the least bit interested in that,” Cilman said. “They find it sort of in conflict with what we do. ‘20/20’ did a piece on the group that never actually aired. It caused so much trouble. I told Stephen to get these guys where they’re comfortable---and you’ll get them where they’re real.”
Walker said, “My mission was to be uncompromising about things. We always knew about the issue of death although we didn’t actually expect people to die while we were making the film. We talked openly about death and discussed their fears. We were determined to make a film which tried to get as close as you can to the heart of what it is to be old. And what its like to face this---if we’re lucky.”

For more on Young @ Heart visit their website at

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


Chicago's Record Row In addition to being a resource for archived stories, this is a place to share anecdotes about Chicago's Record Row, to network about Record Row developments and an opportunity for locals and tourists to comment on their experiences along Record Row.


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on April 11, 2008 5:33 PM.

Opening Day! 50th Anniversary Of Lefty O'Douls was the previous entry in this blog.

Cubs Win/Spirit of Billy Jurges is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.