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Community Cinema Series celebrates musicians who are 'Young @ Heart'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 7, 2009 - Seniors and boomers will be rockin' at the Missouri History Museum Wednesday -- in both film and live performances -- proof once again, Jethro Tull, that you're never too old to rock 'n' roll.

This special afternoon installment in the monthly Community Cinema Series features a screening of "Young @ Heart,'' a lively documentary about a senior citizens chorus by that name based in Northampton, Mass. Filmmakers Stephen Walker and Sally George capture the drama of these oldsters, in their 70s and 80s, in the final weeks of rehearsals for a tough new program featuring -- no, not show tunes -- but hits by such artists as James Brown, Bruce Springsteen and the Talking Heads.

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The 2007 documentary has been an audience favorite at film festivals around the world, as the Young @ Heart Chorus gives a whole new perspective to "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees and "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones.

In addition to the free screening, local organizations, such as OASIS and the Washington University Lifelong Learning Institute, will be on hand to offer information about senior activities. And there will be live performances by the Hot Flashes, a local boomer women rock band, and the Etc. Senior Theater Company, based at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.

Sherre Birenbaum, who plays guitar and sings with the Hot Flashes, says audiences appreciate the fact that the women are onstage, still doing what they've always loved: performing their favorite music.

The group formed in 2003 and often play at local community events and organizations, including VFWs, where audiences of a certain age enjoy the band's rousing renditions of classic rock hits, mostly from the '50s through the '80s.

The women, ages 47 to 62, all have day jobs: Birenbaum is a college financial aid administrator; Mary Dobbs, bass and vocals, is an ophthalmic technician; Carol Jennings, sax and trumpet, works as a technician in a physician's office; Rose Maguire, keyboard and vocals, is an executive assistant and Julie Moore, drums, is a product development manager.

"Everybody did something as a kid; they had a talent. They drew pictures, or they made pottery. You could ask almost anyone and they did something. Of course as you get older, you get married, have children, and those things take over,'' Birenbaum said. "They watch us, and they say, 'Gee, I wish I could still do...' ''

The band will kick off the event with a 90-minute concert that starts at noon and will feature some Christmas tunes, plus the classics that, as Birenbaum puts it, "people in our age group grew up with'': '60s rhythm and blues, a little Elton John, and "girl group" songs, such as "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas and the "Shoop Shoop Song, (It's in His Kiss.)"

Rock on.

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