Senior citizens from the “Rhummer Gospel” choir at the Rockhal on 30 October
Photo: Nader Ghavami
The “Rhummer Gospel” senior citizens’ choir is back in concert at the Rockhal Club on 7 November, sharing the stage with youngsters from the Waldorf school.
Photo: Nader Ghavami
Four years ago, senior citizens from the Op der Rhum retirement home in Luxembourg City were encouraged by the Servior collaborator Robert Bodja to form the first senior gospel choir in the country. They showcased their talent in front of an audience of 1,200 at the Philharmonie in November 2017.
Now, under the musical leadership of Robert Bodja, 30 senior choristers have teamed up with 60 pupils from the Waldorf School in Limpertsberg aged 8 to 18 for their second major concert. Both the seniors and the youngsters are enthusiastic.
“I enjoy singing with the elderly. One can really see that they are having fun, that’s lovely. I’m particularly looking forward to my duet,” says one ten-year old of her experience. The duets, in which senior and junior singers are paired up, are also well-received among the older students as well, as one seventeen-year old explains: “The younger ones dance while they sing; it’s a joy to watch them, especially when they sing together with the elderly.”
90-year old Marie-Louise welcomes the playful spontaneity which the children bring to the performance. “I might be 90, but I’m still as mischievous as I was when I was ten years old,” she concedes with a hearty laugh.
For many of the retirees the gospel has become an essential part of life. Henriette, who is 82, says that the weekly practice has spiced up life in the retirement home. “I might be in pain or in a bad mood, but after rehearsal I always feel better. I experience a joy that comes from deep within. I couldn’t live without it anymore.”
Jeanne, who at 98 is the oldest member of the choir, concurs: “It is a highlight in my life to sing with the choir and the children add a new dimension to the music.” The shared delight in singing seems to bridge the age difference of up to ninety years between the youngest and the oldest members of the choir.
During the dress rehearsal, Robert sings, conducts and choreographs his singers, and plays the drums. The choir members agree that Robert’s vivacious personality is the driving force behind the project. “He can be silly and he makes us laugh,” says Henriette. “But he is very professional before a big performance.”
Marie-Louise, who praises his musicality and talent for teaching, says Robert “embodies the music.”
Not every elderly member of the choir understands English, so Robert offers weekly English classes in which he explains the meaning of the lyrics of the gospel songs. For Adrienne, a septuagenarian, navigating a new language is a big achievement. “The joy of singing has helped me in my life and I’m so proud of myself for managing to sing in English!”
The older Waldorf School students have no problem understanding the lyrics, but explain that they “are in it for the music rather than the religious meaning of the songs. We enjoy the rhythm, particularly of the African songs.” Robert has included traditional Togolese songs that are performed with great excitement.
The joyous energy of the 90-voice choir is contagious and invigorating. “Gospel and young Friends” is a musical encounter that connects people beyond age, faiths and cultures. Their concert on 7 November is sold out, but we expect to hear more from this unique ensemble.