Bykota on Stage senior troupe

Walt Graham helps Marty Surak make some last-minute adjustments to his costume before Bykota on Stage performs its holiday show, "Toy Shop," at the Cockeysville Senior Center on Dec. 9. The troupe, composed of members ranging in age from their 60s to mid-80s, performs at locations all around the Baltimore area. (Photo by Noah Scialom / December 12, 2011)

Walt Graham makes it clear:

The Bykota on Stage performers "still have a lot of snap left in their garters."

Yes, they are old, said 77-year-old Graham, the troupe's general manager.

"Our bodies are giving up, but we try to camouflage it," he said. "We're lively in spirit."

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The 29 singers present musical programs for seniors in centers, clubs, veteran's groups, nursing homes and retirement communities.

They are not directly affiliated with the Bykota Senior Center in Towson, but that's where they gather and rehearse — hence their name.

They are all giving Social Security a run for its money.

"The median age is 78," Graham said of the group. "Three … are 85 or older, and there are just a few in their late 60s. We call them 'the babies.' But we laugh a lot and do the best we can to put on a good show."

Singer Dot Trabing, an 82-year-old Towson resident who does the scheduling, is accustomed to the accolades. After a performance for the Bou/Tem/Sci Club at Columbus Gardens, in Nottingham, Betsie Johnson sent the Bykota group a thank you note.

"It was a delightful show and excellent entertainment," she wrote. "Your excitement, enthusiasm and talents are wonderful."

Speaking on behalf of the Towson chapter of the Eastern Star, after a luncheon performance at Pappas' restaurant, Susan Hennighassen said, "We all enjoyed them. They were vibrant, joyful and happy."

They get invited back continuously, Graham said. In many cases they are booked a year in advance.

The suggested donation for their appearance is $175.

"That keeps us afloat," he said. "It pays for rehearsal space and covers other expenses. We are completely self-sustaining."

However, they didn't accept a donation when they played recently for veterans in the VA hospital on Loch Raven Boulevard.

Senior moments

The performers hail from different areas — Towson, Lutherville, Baldwin, Perry Hall, Ellicott City, Parkville and Baltimore City, to name a few.

Graham, a retired electrician, has been singing with the group for 10 years, has lived in Elkton since he and partner Walt Osborne retired years ago and sold their individual houses in the city to move to the country.

"It's just an hour away," he said.

A sampling reveals diverse backgrounds — Leo Ader co-founded the group about 12 years ago with Pat McArt. He's a BGE retiree. She's a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital bio-chemist. Another woman used to work at Social Security. There is also is a retired nurse and a retired accountant.