Golden Oldies

CEDAR HILL, TX — While called the Silver Serenaders, many members of this senior adult choir are well into their golden years. A concert at Dallas’ Meyerson Symphony Center September 18, in fact, marks the 30th anniversary of performances by the group whose members’ average age is 74.

“We will perform a marvelous new work by composer Charles F. Brown entitled “I Shall See Thy Face,” written especially for our choir,” artistic director, Jim Palmer, said. “The second half of the concert will be lighter fare featuring all the styles of pop music the choir has sung during the last 30 years.”

The Silver Serenaders of Texas was established September 17, 1981, at Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas, when only a few other senior adult choirs existed in
the U.S. Jim and his wife, Betty, approached their church with the idea of forming the group, after attending a Southern Baptist  Convention conference where Jim heard his first senior choir perform.

“At that time, we called them the Sunset Serenaders because the church was on Sunset Street, Sunset High School was just up the street and because ‘sunset’ represented our senior years. We had 52 people come out for our first rehearsal,” Jim recalled.

In 1995, the group changed its name to Silver Serenaders, as it evolved from a church to a community choir, inviting members of all denominations, with Jim remaining at its helm. A singer since his days at Sunset High School, Jim had been in glee club at Baylor University, where he earned a master’s degree in history. He later earned a master’s of church music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“During this period, I became minister of music at a church in Richardson, where I remained for seven-and-a-half years,” Jim said. After a move to Oak Cliff brought him to Cliff Temple Baptist, Jim led the junior high choir, the college and career choir and then the Templos Junior Choir for a decade.

Joining the choir involves “showing up, filling out a card and being faithful to rehearsals,” Jim said. Rehearsals take place each Monday from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill. There is no audition involved. “Just give me a warm body and a willing, dedicated person, and I do the rest in teaching music,” Jim explained. “We invite those who have never sung in a choir and, of course, those with vast musical experience and all those in between.”

Even following this loose format, Jim said the group continues to improve. “When people realize we are a serious choir, not an ‘old folks’ choir,” he explained, “they want to be a member. We attract more and more seasoned musicians,” he continued. “Secondly, those who joined years ago have grown in confidence and become fine musicians.”

Perhaps it’s the three-fold mission that affords the group continued success: to witness for Christ through musical arts, to promote U.S. patriotism and to encourage community service. “We’re a nonprofit Christian choir and, on purpose, we sing all kinds of music. Our concerts consist of 50-percent sacred music and the other half is patriotic or jazz, country or pop, classic western or rock — whatever our mood is,” Jim said.

Notable performance sites include New York’s Carnegie Hall; the National Christian Church in Washington, D.C.; Carpenter Hall in Irving; and Hawaii’s largest Catholic senior center. The list also includes a number of hotels, more than 100 churches and at least 10 colleges and universities.

“But one of my favorite performances was at a small church in East Texas, with no choir loft and seating for 100 people. We decided to surround the audience by making a circle around the four sides of the little sanctuary,” Jim recalled. “I stood in the middle directing and our sound enveloped the audience. It was surreal.”

While their songs bring listeners to their feet, Jim notes that a number of choir members sit during every concert. “Some are on walkers or in wheelchairs and are unable to stand for any length
of time … so they sit,” Jim said. “This inspires me to give my all for these seniors who have overcome physical issues and continue to be faithful and make genuine contributions to our group.”

With the advanced age of many in

the choir, the group has shared some 100 members’ deaths. The deceased are

dubbed Golden Serenaders by remaining group members, who insist the departed now sing in “our Father’s heavenly choir.”

“More than one member has chosen to be buried in their choir uniform,” Jim noted. “I will never forget the first time this occurred, and it led me to believe the Silver Serenaders Choir was a most important part of their lives. I knew then that my work was not in vain … that we really made a difference.”

For his dedication to the group, Jim has never taken remuneration. “To be paid for my loving hobby,” he said, “would have spoiled everything.” October 1, he will retire as Serenaders’ artistic director but continue on as a choir member alongside his wife. He calls Betty “the real musician of the family” and notes she has performed on keyboard at every Serenaders’ concert. “She is the reason

I have been able to direct this choir all these years,” Jim said, encouraging others to be part of the group that has brought them both such joy.

“The Silver Serenaders of Texas Adult Choir is a wonderful, friendly, loving organization. If you have wanted to be
a part of a group like this, do not delay,” Jim said. “Join us, and before long a spark will ignite in you, making you a living flame of performance and a choir member of merit and joy. It will change your life!”

Written by Angel Morris.