SaddleBrooke Singers raise their voices

Large choir to perform April 5 and 7 in concert themed 'Let Nature Sing'
2013-03-21T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T13:23:28Z SaddleBrooke Singers raise their voicesPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The SaddleBrooke Singers succeed with numbers. The massive, retiree-filled choir has about 80 members, staging concerts with between 65 and 70 singers belting out songs to crowds of more than 300.

But the group's secret weapon is the numbers that denote their ages. The singers say that because of practice and experience, they sound better than ever.

Sam Page, the group's 71-year-old president, said his voice has improved with the passing decades.

"It's gotten more mellow," Page said. "A voice teacher back in college told me that as I got older my voice would get deeper and have more timbre to it, and that I probably wouldn't be at my best until I was in my 50s and 60s."

Page added that he thinks his voice continues to improve in his 70s.

"The more you sing, the better you get," he said. "And I think the more you sing, the healthier you are because singing involves deep breathing and using all of your upper body to really get into a song."

The singers rehearse two hours a week every Sunday. Over more than 15 years, the group - a nonprofit supported by membership dues and ticket sales at concerts - has performed more than 230 songs.

Accompanist Lennis Boggis supplements the music with piano and keyboard arrangements, and songs are accompanied by visuals projected on a large screen.

The group performs concerts in winter and spring, ranging from classical music to show tunes and contemporary songs. They've been preparing for this spring's concert, "Let Nature Sing," since early January. The concert will be a mix of modern music and songs inspired by poets.

In that concert, April 5 and 7, they'll sing songs such as "Colors of the Wind" from the movie "Pocahontas," along with "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and "It's a Wonderful World."

Director Linda Griffin sang in the University of Michigan ChoraleU and the Naples (Fla.) Philharmonic Chorale. She plays the piano, concert grand harp and is studying classical guitar.

Griffin said between 10 and 20 percent of the group members have sung professionally, and many are part of church choirs and play other instruments.

The chance to join the group is something of a life's calling for many members, who in retirement now have time and energy to devote to performance.

Page has sung most of his life, but 35 years in retail management didn't allow much time for indulging his hobby. That changed after he moved to SaddleBrooke from the San Diego area in 2005. He joined the group shortly thereafter and became president in 2011.

"When I was working, I didn't really have time to join a choir or singing group," he said. "After I retired and moved over here, it was something I wanted to do."

Griffin, 70, said she strives to give the singers an appreciation for good music while helping them become a cohesive group.

Gail Nelli, 62, has sung soprano with the group since 2007 after retiring to SaddleBrooke from upstate New York, where she taught theater. She attributes much of the group's success to Griffin.

"Linda has such a love for music," Nelli said. "She has such a wonderful demeanor in getting what she needs out of the group. We have people who are trained in music and people who can't even read music. She works with them and trains them as we move along. She knows the right kind of way of getting people to work hard."

Page said the group succeeds because its members indulge their passion.

"The best aspect is that we do this because we really love to sing," he said. "When you get this many people together and have them blend like they're in an orchestra, when we really nail a song, it's a great feeling. And we nail most of them."

IF YOU GO

• What: SaddleBrooke Singers present "Let Nature Sing."

• When: 7:30 p.m. April 5 and 4 p.m. April 7.

• Where: DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive.

• Admission: $20 at the door.

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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