Waving the baton
June 3, 2014
By Joe Grove
Dorothy Hay completes 25 years with Issaquah Singers
When Dorothy Hay takes the director’s stand at the Issaquah Singers annual concert for the public June 7, it will mark 25 years of directing the choir.
The concert at Sammamish Presbyterian Church is free, though donations for support of the group will be accepted.
Hay said the concert title, “Snapshots,” comes from the hope that songs will bring back pictures for the audience from their past: pictures from the likes of “Naughty Lady of Shady Lane,” “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” “Crawdad Hole,” “In The Garden” and others.
The Issaquah Singers is a volunteer community choir formed in 1976 by a group of friends who “hatched the idea over a card table,” Hay said. “Some of them had moved here from other cities, where they had sung in choirs, and felt like they wanted to continue singing.
“We have never had auditions from the start. Anybody who wants to join can.”
Much of their singing is done in senior centers and assisted-living facilities.
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“We take the joy of music to people who have difficulty getting out to hear live music,” she said. “We typically sing songs that are familiar to people in senior centers.”
Hay got involved with the choir after quitting a job in downtown Seattle, and friends told her she now had time to sing in their choir. They said they had a concert coming up and needed an accompanist.
She started out filling in for the accompanist and was with the choir from May until June. When it came time to start again in the fall, the group was without a director. Since she had experience as a director, she was given the job and has been doing it since.
Hay has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Whitworth University in Spokane, but she chose to pursue a career in business. When she did go to work for the Issaquah School District, it was as a career counselor. She said as a career counselor, she “couldn’t help students enough,” so she got a master’s degree in school counseling from the University of Washington and now has worked several years as a counselor at Liberty High School.
Though she has not taught music in the public schools, she has been in choirs continuously since kindergarten, either as a singer, director or an accompanist.
Mary Ellen Hanks, who directed Hay’s kindergarten choir at Prosser Presbyterian Church, and Loreta Brown, the accompanist, both of Prosser, will be at this concert to direct and play two songs.
“They are both in their 80s and very alert,” Hay said.
Hay has never charged for her music. She sees it as a service to the elderly and to the people who sing in the choir.
“People who have done music understand that it brings such a quality of life,” she said. “You can’t describe that to somebody. It’s not the same as singing along with the radio.
“There are studies now that show singing in groups raises the endorphins in the brain and brings about a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment. Music has that power.”
Hay said the Singers are a fun group that sings fun music. Those same sentiments were expressed by Myrna Ostrem, a charter member of the group.
“I just love it,” she said. “It is so energizing.
“The songs are real cool and her inspiration keeps everybody going.”
Myrna didn’t disclose her age, but she has been with the group for 38 years, and when she thinks about music from her youth, songs like “Sandman” and “Tennessee Waltz” come to mind.
She drives from Auburn once a week to be at the rehearsals.
“This participation helps,” she said. “I lost a husband and daughter, and have a daughter with MS. It gives me something to look forward to every week and gets you out of the sadness.”
She still dances regularly also.
“Dancing and music just keep you going,” she said.
Instrumentation that accompanies the group includes a piano, hammer dulcimer, a bass, a French horn and an accordion. And, on one selection for this concert, Hay will accompany on a steel drum.
“Every Issaquah Singers concert has a sing-along section in which the singers sit with the audience and sing together with them,” Hay said.
That usually involves four or five songs.
There are about 60 members in the Issaquah Singers, ranging in age from 22 to 85, with about 40 percent male and about one-third working age.
Since there are no auditions, joining is easy. Go to the website — www.issaquahsingers.com — and click on the tab that asks if you are interested in joining. Or, just show up at a rehearsal any Thursday during the school year at 7 p.m. at the Issaquah Senior Center.
As the group is in preparation for the June concert, the fall would be a better time to join, Hay said.