Song troupe keeps a song in their heart

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Robert Friedman

For the ShowTime Singers, almost anything goes — from Broadway to the Beatles, from a cappella to rock ‘n roll, from Streisand to Sinatra to “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“We’re not into rap yet,” said Catherine Johnson, musical director of the 50 or so mixed voices that belong to area residents who make up the vocal group. 

“We mostly sing in four-part harmony — baby boomer songs, the songs of the parents of baby boomers, show tunes, love songs, patriotic songs, anything that appeals to our audiences,” which Johnson noted are often made up of older Howard County residents.

The group appeared Dec. 6 at the Ellicott City Senior Center, and is scheduled for a Feb. 6 show at Heartlands Senior Living Village, also in Ellicott City. All performances are open to the public.

And while many of the singers are over the 50-year-mark (all of the group’s seven men are in that age category), “we are not a senior chorus by any means,” said Johnson, noting that a number of 30-year-old women have recently joined the all-volunteer group.

Johnson, a founding director of the group in 2003, has been singing in groups, directing and coaching them, and teaching voice “for about 40 years.”

A former teacher at the Mt. Hebron Nursery School in Ellicott City, Johnson’s specialty is a cappella — meaning the singing is without musical accompaniment. The ShowTime Singers, however, are often accompanied by a trio of musicians.

Johnson’s musical career got underway at Paterson Park in Baltimore when, as a 3-year-old, she took to the bandstand during a weekly concert to join the orchestra in a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” She knew that song by heart, she said, because her father was a fulltime baseball fan.

A good cause

“The purpose of our group,” Johnson noted, “is to go out to the community — especially to places where people don’t go out much themselves. Music,” she said, “brings back memories. It lifts the spirit.”

Joanne Collins, 65, a retired federal government employee who lives in an assisted living community in Columbia, joined the ShowTime Singers last January. Her simple reason: “I love to sing.”

She said she was also attracted to the group because of its work for the Linwood Center in Ellicott City, where it rehearses. Part of the proceeds from the ShowTime Singers’ performances go to the center, which provides programs and services for children and adults living with autism.

“You sing all the songs you love, from ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ to songs from ‘Jersey Boys,” said Collins. “There’s not much better than that.”

Bill Moss, 62, of Clarksville, joined the group in 2005. He is the executive director of the Linwood Center. He noted that when ShowTime Singers was formed in 2003, one of its members had a son at Linwood. He was told that the troupe was looking for an organization to support.

“We said, ‘Yes, we’d love to be part of that’,” said Moss.

Then he, his wife Cheryl, and his daughter, Sarah Love, took the further step of joining the chorus themselves.

“Now I’ve found a whole new way of expressing myself,” Moss said. “It has been very enjoyable, another way of sharing with my wife and my daughter and a lot of good friends.”

Singers (especially men) wanted

“We’re still on the lookout for men,” said the director, who, among many other musical accomplishments, is a member of the Sweet Adelines — the international organization of women singers who vocalize in barbershop harmony. 

Guys, and gals, who can carry a tune and want to put their singing talents on display are welcome to meet with Johnson. The first step is to go to the website at www.ShowTimeSingers.net.

After signing up, you will be asked to meet before the group’s Thursday evening rehearsals, which get underway at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Center, 3421 Martha Bush Drive, in Ellicott City. The rehearsals are from September through June.

ShowTime Singers members pay monthly dues of $15. Dues cover costs for sheet music, props, CDs and other materials. The group aims to give two performances a month.

Johnson can be reached at director@ ShowTimeSingers.net. For more information about the group, including its current repertoire and upcoming performances, visit www.ShowTimeSingers.net.