I got a principal bass spot in a local Chicagoland orchestra right after graduating from college. One of the side benefits of holding this position was having the opportunity to participate in the ensemble’s community outreach program. I’d already had quite a bit of experience doing outreach activities at this point, having participated in the Cvic Orchestra of Chicago’s MusiCorps program and working at Malcolm X College (a likely source of more crazy gig stories), but this new opportunity put me in front of an entirely new segment of the population… Seniors!
One may (quite reasonably) argue that nearly every classical music concert is a senior citizen event, but this outreach program put me in a slew of nursing homes, and while this still may eerily resemble the typical classical audience, playing as a solo bassist (!) in nursing homes was an entirely new type of thing for me.
The first thing I had to toss around mentally is what on Earth to play for these program. I mean, c’mon–solo bass? What was I going to do, play excerpts for them? Bass lines from pieces? I was trying to entertain, not bore them into the grave.
I eventually settled in a mishmash of peppy solo bass pieces and famous show tunes from yester year. I’d play a short bass piece, make a couple of comments, and then launch into an old classic like “Ain’t Misbevavin'” or the like. The older folks listening usually sang along, and it often surprised me to see just how well these seniors (many of whom were clearly suffering from dementia or Alsheimer’s) remembered these tunes from their youth.
One of my regular selections was “Makin Whoopee”, and it always amused me to hear all these older folks belt out:
Another bride Another June
Another sunny honey moon
another season, another reason
for makin’ whoopie
Alot of shoes, alot of rice
the groom is nervous. he answers twice
its so Killin that he’s so willin’
To make whoopee
Picture a little love nest
down where the roses cling
picture the same sweet love nest
Think what a year can bring
He’s washing dishes and baby cloths
He’s so ambitious he even sows
but don’t forget folks thats what you get folks
for makin’ whoopee