Julius Cotter (on fiddle) and others at a musical jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

MUSIC

PHOTOS: Surrey seniors band together at weekly jam sessions

‘My policy is to keep busy doing stuff like this, and you gotta have a smile doing it,’ one woman says

Julius Cotter’s face lights up when asked about his harmonica and fiddle playing.

At lunchtime on a recent Thursday, the 94-year-old was seated in the back row of a hodgepodge orchestra that filled one side of a gym-sized room at Fleetwood Community Centre.

This is musical jam-session day for seniors, some of whom play while others listen.

“I’m one of the oldest people here, that’s for sure, and I’ve been coming here for years,” Cotter said.

“I just like to play along with everybody, and make music on violin and/or the harmonica – one or the other, because I can’t play them at the same time,” he added with a laugh.

On Sept. 5, 17 musicians played a wide variety of instruments, including mandolin, a couple of electric guitars, a small drum kit, violin, electric bass, piano, a clarinet and accordion. Some sat out a song or two, while others seemed eager to jam along to every tune.

They played some Buddy Holly, The Turtles’ “Happy Together” and, led by Cotter on violin, “The Log Driver’s Waltz.” A version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was slow to come together, but eventually everyone picked up the chord changes.

Whatever the song, the two-hour sessions have proved popular among seniors who want to play music and socialize.

“On a bad day, we’ll get 12 or 14 players, all the way up to 22 or 24 of them,” said Mildred Davies, who helps organize the jam.

“We all take our turns and let people know what song it is and what key it’s in, and then we play,” she explained. “It’s all volunteer, and that includes the lunch program we have. There’s no charge to come and play and no charge to come and listen. It’s so good – so good for the players, to keep them active musically, and also the audience. The seniors here love music.”

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE MORE PHOTOS

The jam sessions happen Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 at Fleetwood Community Centre (15996 84th Ave.) – a chance to “come and tap your toes or dance to this wonderful group,” as a sandwich board at the front entrance says. A sandwich lunch is served for $3.50.

The session on Sept. 5 was the first of the season, with weekly jams on now until June.

“We take a break during the summer,” noted Davies, who also jams on guitar and sings.

“I come to play and fill in here and there, it’s really good,” she explained. “Whoever comes, they get to play. If there are lots of people, you might not get to play your favourite song, but we try to fit everyone in. Everyone joins in, if they know the song, or they’ll just sit out the song if they don’t know it. It’s very informal that way. It’s a busy two hours in there.”

The way Davies sees it, the sessions are a way to keep seniors engaged, using music as a connector.

Sure, there are some sour notes here and there, but that can be expected at any jam.

Dorothy Bonazew, who’s about to turn 89, does her part by spinning a wooden wheel that shows the jammers what key the current song is in. Seated in the front row, she also keeps the beat with a tambourine.

“This is my spot every week, pretty much,” she said. “I don’t play anything, I just make a noise. It’s fun, and I enjoy music, so if I can play a little bit of something, then that’s fine. You can’t really go wrong.”

Later in the jam session, she stepped to the microphone to tell a joke for the audience.

“My policy is to keep busy doing stuff like this, and you gotta have a smile doing it,” she said earlier. “They all get to be family, and friends, these people here.”

A similar jam session for seniors takes place Mondays at Newton Seniors Centre (13775 70th Ave.), from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

At the Fleetwood jam, Davies recalled one saxophone player who was 100 years old.

“He loved it, but sadly he has died,” she lamented. “I’m sure this is what kept him alive, coming to this event.”

Cotter’s been playing the harmonica since he was a kid, but only started strumming the violin when he was in his 70s.

“My wife, second time around, she’s 94, and she’s out there in the audience listening to me and the others,” Cotter noted. “She plays cards, not music,” he added with a smile. “I cut and polish stones as a hobby as well, along with the music here. I think the idea is to have something you enjoy doing and keep your life happy.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

 

Julius Cotter with one of his harmonicas at a musical jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Musicians at a jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Musicians at a jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Musicians at a jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Dorothy Bonazew plays tambourine and minds a spinning wheel that shows what key the current song is in, during a jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Musicians at a jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Mildred Davies (right, with acoustic guitar) and other musicians at a jam session for seniors (aged 55 plus) at Fleetwood Community Centre on Thursday, Sept. 5. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Just Posted

$50,000 reward for ‘extremely violent’ South Surrey murder suspect renewed

Offer for information on Brandon Teixeira to remain in effect through April, 2020

Surrey moves to ban sleeping overnight in RVs, motorhomes on city streets

Proposal comes amid complaints about homeless people living in recreational vehicles

White Rock senior ‘just sick’ about lost rings

Wedding, engagement bands discovered missing on Oct. 7

Surrey restaurant owner who pointed handgun at staff loses court appeal

Jawahar Singh Padda tried to get his 30-month sentenced reduced

Surrey cold-case murder is Crime Stoppers’ ‘Crime of the week’

Police have yet to arrest a suspect in the April 24, 2011 murder of Devon Allaire-Bell, 19, in Newton

VIDEO: First all-female spacewalk team makes history

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir did work on International Space Station’s power grid

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Greta Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta, but doesn’t talk oilsands

Swedish teen was met with some oil and gas industry supporters who came in a truck convoy

Scheer denies spreading ‘misinformation’ in predicting unannounced Liberal taxes

Conservative leader had claimed that a potential NDP-Liberal coalition could lead to a hike in GST

Council asks to limit cruise ship visits to Victoria harbour

Mayor says motion is not meant to curtail current visits or limit local cruise industry expansion

Chilliwack man pleads guilty in crash that killed pregnant woman

Frank Tessman charged under Motor Vehicle Act for accident that killed Kelowna school teacher

Kawhi Leonard, former Toronto Raptor, welcomed back to Vancouver at pre-season game

Fans go wild at pre-season game between L.A. Clippers and Dallas Mavericks at Rogers Arena

Greens and NDP go head to head on West Coast; Scheer takes fight to Bernier

Trudeau turns focus to key ridings outside Toronto after two days in Quebec

Most Read

l -->