THEN: In August 1994, a group of residents at Good Samaritan Village in Hastings gathered to form a choir.
Helen LaPorte, director of the senior center, organized the group of about a dozen members who became the Singing Samaritans.
NOW: Twenty years later, the group is still going strong and has doubled its size from just 12 to more than 30 members.
When Marydae Eigenberg took over as choir director from LaPorte seven years ago, there were about 15 members in the group.
“We sang our first outing at the Five Points Tree of Love,” Eigenberg said of their first performance under her direction. “From there, we have just grown to where we are now at 32 members.”
Eigenberg was urged to join the choir as its director more than seven years ago after LaPorte retired from her position.
“One of the members kept hounding me,” Eigenberg said. “I didn’t live at the village and I wasn’t looking for something else to do. I finally said yes. So here we are.”
Eigenberg has always loved singing and directed both adult and children’s choirs at her church before taking over as director for the Singing Samaritans.
“I have no formal training,” she said. “It just happened.”
In fact, there is no training required for anyone to be a member of the choir.
“If you live in the village, you can be in the choir,” Eigenberg said.
There are also two members of the choir who do not live in the village. Members of the group are between the ages of 69 and 92.
Eigenberg said some of the members were soloists in the past. While there are others who don’t know how to read music.
“We have more fun than anything else,” she said. “Everyone has their own personality and their own voice. It is so fun.”
The Singing Samaritans play much of the music from their own younger days in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
“We sing some back to the Second World War,” Eigenberg said. “I know of two vets in our choir from the Second World War.”
The group also sings some religious and patriotic songs along with some humorous tunes from the 1920s and 1930s.
Eigenberg said part of the enjoyment of performing for other seniors is seeing the joy on their face when they recognize a song.
“It’s fun because of their reactions,” she said. “We sing songs that were popular when we were young.”
The group meets once a week to sing for fun or to practice for a special program.
This weekend the group is performing a free concert for the public 2 p.m. Saturday at the GSV All Saints Chapel.
Performances are held at the village three or four times a year. The Samaritans also play off campus at The Homestead, The Kensington, Edgewood Vista and College View in Hastings.
They have also performed at a few senior living centers in Grand Island.