Sunday, November 16, 2008
Young@Heart brings Joy to the World
I'm just home after a great event I've been helping plan the past couple of months: a screening at IU of the film Young@Heart , a documentary about the Young@Heart Chorus from Northampton, Massachusetts.
Bob Cilman, the chorus director, was on hand to answer questions afterwards. We had a reception with food from Bloomingfoods, FarmBloomington, Lennie's, and The Uptown Café. Dan Lodge-Rigal played the piano and we heard from the Carousel Quartet, four men who've been singing together for over 25 years.
The film documents a six-week period in the life of this chorus of elders, where the minimum age is 73. Their playlist includes tunes by Sonic Youth, The Clash, Lou Reed, the Talking Heads, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, and many more. In one powerful scene they perform Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" at a men's prison. There's also a very transfixing version of Coldplay's "Fix You." I watched with tears streaming down my face and joy in my heart, an interesting experience echoing the mood of the days since the election.
This event was a project of the Art of Mental Health, a collaborative project of two mental health agencies and other groups and individuals interested in sharing and celebrating the connections between emotional well-being and creativity. Art of Mental Health informs people about mental health resources, and works to reduce the fear and stigma surrounding mental and emotional challenges.
The question and answer period was riveting and I was especially taken by what Cilman said when asked how he funded the project. He responded by talking about how it started "just as a way to spend an afternoon," then grew over time through local, state, and (eventually) National Endowment for the Arts funding, all of which were very important. But he never could have imagined the phenomenal success of the group in generating opportunities, including the chance to travel abroad. I wish I could recall his exact words of advice, but they were on the order of: "We didn't start with these outcomes as our goal. What was more important was to just try to make art, doing something interesting every day."