Center's chorus hits right note with senior singers


Every Wednesday morning, 27 seniors at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia begin their day with a song.

Last week was no exception, as members of the Florence Bain Singers, a singing group formed two years ago, warmed up their vocal chords to the tune of "Scarlet Ribbons."

"Get in voice as high as you can, altos," said choral director Dorothye M. Craft, as her fingers glided across the piano keys.

Obediently, the group sang up and down the musical scale in preparation for 45 minutes of practice that included songs such as "Some Enchanted Evening," "No Man Is An Island" and "Let There Be Peace."

"One of the purposes of our group is to bring joy into the lives of others," Mrs. Craft said.

The 71-year-old Columbia resident started the group in January 1992 when a Florence Bain staff member said there was an interest in singing.

At that time, Mrs. Craft and her daughter were inquiring about volunteer work at the center.

"My daughter said, 'Momma can do this,' " she said. "We set up a date for our first meeting and sent out notices."

Since then, the chorus -- which started with 11 people -- has been in demand, performing for churches in the county and also singing at functions such as the Salute to Seniors festivities held at the Mall in Columbia, the Older American Luncheon sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons and the annual senior variety show held at the Florence Bain Senior Center.

"We could do more if we had transportation," Mrs. Craft said. "Some members come here by bus and some ride with others. Right now, we are restricted to daytime things."

In addition to bringing joy to an appreciative audience, the director said the group aims to "prolong the love of music and to create comradery among ourselves."

The "love of music" is an interest shared by all members, though their backgrounds are diverse.

Margaret Shaw is a 77-year-old Clarksville resident who "plays the piano by ear" and sings soprano. Two years ago, after hearing the group sing at Florence Bain Senior Center, she decided to join and has been singing ever since.

Sharing the interest is her friend, Marie Pearce, 75, also a soprano who has been a member of the group since its beginning. Eight years ago, the Columbia resident who "loves music" started taking private voice lessons and ultimately joined the Florence Bain choral group.

One of the more experienced voices is a clear baritone sung by Calvin Jeffress, who sings in the choir at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. The 69-year-old Columbia resident had taken a voice class while in college and was enthusiastic about joining the Florence Bain group.

Mrs. Craft has played piano and directed choirs at churches through out Montgomery and Howard counties.

For nine years, she directed the gospel choir at Locust United Methodist Church in Simpsonville.

She currently directs the senior choir at First Baptist Church of Guilford, where she is a member.

"I've always enjoyed playing," said Mrs. Craft, who took music classes in college but never majored in music.

She stresses that auditions for the Florence Bain Singers are not necessary and that "anyone who comes is welcome."

"Our voices have had their good day, but this is for fun and now it is our day," she said.

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