When retired school teacher and amateur musician Dee Morrison moved to Walnut Village a few years ago, she made a delightful discovery that was literally music to her ears. She found a set of Suzuki Tone chimes in storage that were donated by another retirement community. "They needed a little love and refurbishment but I was excited," she said.
Dee has a long history of making music with this elegant instrument. "Years ago my church wanted to start a chime choir and asked for volunteers," Dee remembered. "I played the piano so I had some musical background but I had never heard of hand chimes. Thanks to a church choir director, who became my mentor, I ended up loving them."
Hand chimes are similar to handbells but generally not as well known by non-musicians. They are tuned square tubes with an external clapper mechanism that have a more mellow tone than handbells and because they are lighter, are generally easier to play.
When Dee discovered the set of two octave chimes, she sent them to Suzuki Company for refurbishment and convinced Walnut Village management to purchase an additional set representing a third octave. She then began to recruit fellow residents.
"I asked if anyone would like to play and I was pleasantly surprised so many people said yes," Dee said. "Some have musical experience but some don't. What's most important is wanting to play and learn. No musical training is required, just being able to count and keep rhythm, plus have fairly good vision and to make music and have fun."
The choir, consisting of eleven people, practices once a week inside Walnut Village's Performing Arts Center. Judging by their huge smiles, there's no question about whether they enjoy performing.
Most of the tunes they play are familiar to most, like The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, It's a Small World and Toreador Song from the popular opera, "Carmen." During the holidays they play favorites like Carol of the Bells, Winter Wonderland and Jingle Bells. Other times of the year they try their hands at classical compositions.
"We try to keep what we play simple so that everyone can learn the songs," Dee said. "We don't get into complex rhythms or arrangements. Our goal is to have fun, not to be accomplished musicians."
On Tuesday afternoons, the sweet and dulcet sounds of high C, E, D and other soft tones echo through the Performing Arts Center and beyond pleasing all who can hear them. For a while, the pandemic forced rehearsals to be held outside but that did not deter the chimers. The choir typically performs at Walnut Village three times a year — in the spring, fall and at a holiday concert in December. However, Dee gives one caveat to that schedule. "We play when we are ready," Dee insists. "We all know when we are ready and if we are not, we don't play."
One of the musicians is resident Eve Silverman, who joined the choir about three months ago with no musical experience but whom Dee describes as one of the most improved players.
"For me it was a chance to have a new experience," Eve said with a grin. "I don't read music so everything is color coded for me and for others who are in the same boat. I'm having a ball. It's been the most welcoming experience."
Dee said it takes the average person with no musical knowledge about two to three practice sessions with the group to learn the basics. "If you can count, you can learn to play," she said. "And of course the music is only part of the experience. Being with other people and sharing the love of what we do is as sweet as the chimes themselves."
About Walnut Village
Walnut Village is an award-winning multi-level senior community located in the heart of Anaheim with the feel of a small town and plenty of opportunities for socializing and creativity. Ranked among the top Anaheim senior living communities, Walnut Village is Senior Living Orange County at its best!
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