They are, of course, much too young to remember the Sing Along with Mitch show from 1961-64 when the lyrics came across the TV screen and we sang our hearts out at seven on a Sunday night.
And like that old format – the forerunner to karaoke – these guys are literary in a class of their own in the old school building in Torrens St, Victor Harbor. They form the South Coast Community Singing Group and meet here every Tuesday afternoon at 1.30, stop for a cucumber or boiled egg sandwich and a slice of banana cake an hour later, and get back into the swing of things until 3.30.
Our local Mitch is Paul Jennings, but he doesn’t sing his own praises. It’s like that here, although this particular day Tony Mawdsley claimed he was the world’s best bathroom singer – we dare not seek to challenge his word.
No apologies for the attempted humour because it sums up this group, which normally attracts 20 or more regulars, most of whom just happened to walk by, heard the sound of music and walked in and joined the clan.
They sing in a circle specifically to sing to each other and to highlight the golden rule – that no one is a bad singer for there is no judgement here; it’s simply about getting the voice box going.
The singing group was an initiative of Barbie Cakebread on February 5, 2008 to promote good health and well being, and it has worked wonders for so many.
According to Paul, who has been doing this since the second meeting, singing improves our breathing.
“Most of us have a song or songs with special meaning, and recently it was discovered that some songs stimulate our hypothalamus (portion of the brain) that makes us feel good,” he said.
“Our group is formed loosely on the Victorian ‘vocal nosh’ model, a form of community singing where anyone can become involved. Attendance is not essential and singers are not pigeon-holed into their voice range like tenors, baritones and so on.
“Most of our songs are simple tunes that can be sung in rounds so we do not have to learn any harmonies. Our harmonies are created in the process of singing in rounds.”
Basically, these sessions are about soul cleansing of the lungs, and the participants love every moment. Paul starts by asking the group to take a deep breath. He gets the singers to close their eyes, hold each breath, and get rid of the tension and relax. He calls for the tummies to be tucked in, demands deep breaths and a loosening of shoulders. They move side to side, and finally they open their eyes and sing. For a bunch of non-professional singers they are pretty good, and no, they don’t need to be carried by Tony the world’s best bathroom singer.
Pat Goudie said she comes to these singing sessions because they make her feel happy. “That’s what singing does,” she said. “I have never thought of myself as a good singer, but I wanted to try and I just love to sing; it gives you such a good feeling.”
The sessions led to a few participants going to the Victor Harbor RSL sub-branch where on the third Friday night of every month they turn on the karaoke box and everyone thinks they’re Bing Crosby or Barbra Streisand. Don’t tell ’em, but they are not. It doesn’t matter though; they have a lot of fun.
The South Coast Community Singing Group gained a community grant to buy its own karaoke machine, and again it’s all about singing your heart out and no one cares two hoots if you’re not good. Not everyone can be the world’s best bathroom singer.
The Tuesday afternoon sessions certainly present an eerie sense of going back in time, especially with the old blackboard encased on the wall and covered in lessons reminding those from the Mitch Miller days among other things of our times tables and 5280 feet equals a mile. Dear old Mitch; he died in 2010 aged 99 and his wife Frances sang along with him for 65 years. If you feel like you’ve worn out your audience at home there are some incredibly nice people who would love to sing along with you next Tuesday at the Old School Building Community Centre.