A spirited group of women residents at Ecumen Seasons at Maplewood are belting out show tunes with conviction. “There’s nothing like a dame,” they sing.
They call themselves the “Maple Nuts” — an instant tipoff that they are a good-humored bunch.
The Maple Nuts are united by their love of singing. They range in age from 70 to 96. Most have sung all their lives, usually in church choirs.
They gather every Thursday, not just to sing but also to learn the techniques of singing better.
This all started coincidentally. Pastor Sue Schoon was conducting Sunday worship services at Seasons at Maplewood. Janet Babcock, the activity director at Seasons, knew that there was a group of women longing to sing and that Pastor Sue was especially well-equipped to enable them.
Before going to seminary, Pastor Sue was a professional singer and taught singing at Concordia College in Moorhead.
“I’d love to do that!” Pastor Sue said without hesitation when asked to lead the group last September. So the singers organized. They named themselves the Maple Nuts and ordained Pastor Sue their “Wing Nut.”
They are working toward giving a concert this summer. And, make no mistake, they are working.
“Spit out the words,” Pastor Sue commands. “Slowly! Use your tongue! Have fun with the song. It’s meant to be playful. Everybody with me now….”
And the ladies tunefully intone: “There is nothing like a dame!”
As the afternoon progresses, the Maple Nuts move through the songs of “South Pacific” with Pastor Sue coaching at the piano. “Now, there are two notes with this word…”
The Maple Nuts clearly love the session and the company of one another. They laugh and tease.
“I used to sing all the time,” says one Maple Nut.
And another cracks, “’Used-To’ is your middle name.”
Pastor Sue and Activity Assistant Mara Coyle pop around the room, giving one-on-one attention as the singers rehearse. Today there are a dozen participants, and some weeks there are more.
Pastor Sue is thrilled with their progress. “They’re getting better all the time,” she says. “These are gifted people with nice voices.”
They’ve also being learning patriotic songs, Christmas carols and standards from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.
In addition to their rehearsals, they help with Sunday services by leading the singing. “This is creating community, home and church,” Pastor Sue says.
As today’s session is winding down, Pastor Sue is still building momentum. She says she’s happy to continue if the Maple Nuts want to keep singing.
No, they say in unison. “It’s time for happy hour.”