It’s hard to imagine the Plymouth Rockers starting with just a handful of singers gathered around a piano. But in fact, the group was started in 1991 by just eight music-loving Plymouth retirees, who sang together at assisted-living homes. The choir has blossomed over the years into the full-fledged, city-sponsored senior chorus group it is today. Best known for their entertaining shows and signature red performance jackets, the Plymouth Rockers celebrated a milestone this past May: 25 years in the singing business.
The Rockers have 70 singers registered on the roster, all of whom are over age 55, and most of whom are retired. The group meets every Monday morning at Plymouth Creek Center for three-hour rehearsals. After the practice, there’s a coffee break where members mingle and catch up. Even with so many members, people are still able to connect.
“Even though I’ve only been with the group eight years, it feels like I’ve known them for a long time,” says Jan Hannaman, a Plymouth resident who joined the group in 2007. She served as group president for two terms. “I like the fact that even though I am over the age of 65, I can still sing and I can contribute.”
There’s plenty of time to socialize beyond coffee breaks as well. The Rockers have two main public concerts, one in the winter and one in the spring. They also play gigs at various private locations across the Twin Cities, including at nursing homes, senior community clubs and residences, schools, churches and local city centers. With 40 scheduled rehearsals and 30 to 40 concerts, the group meets around 80 times in a year.
“It’s definitely a wellness program for seniors,” says David Halligan, music director since 2008. The only requirement beyond being 55 years or older is having a love for singing. Halligan does not audition anyone; all singers are welcome.
The director tries his best to diversify the music set. The Rockers sing everything from show tunes to gospel and spiritual music to a capella numbers. Some of the selections are musically intense, while others are familiar melodies the audience can engage with at shows.
At rehearsals, it can take Halligan 45 minutes to bring the choir’s energy up to a point where the singers are on the same page and can fully enjoy what they sing. After he does this, Halligan notes something else that happens: “When they sing all together, they end up with something that’s bigger than they are and it fills their spirit and soul.”
Rocker and Plymouth resident Jerry Kloss tunes into something special at rehearsals, too: “I like being around the energy at practice sessions. It makes you feel young.” says Kloss, 79, who came to the group in 2007. “As a senior, you can sit in your favorite chair, listen to the radio, fall asleep, wake up, fall asleep again and doze your day away,” Kloss says. “Or you can get out and sing with the Plymouth Rockers.”
It is a special opportunity for Kloss to be part of the Rockers. He finds the most rewarding part of the experience singing at nursing homes. He also has fond memories from the Rockers’ annual Christmas concert, which is open to the public and held at Wayzata Central Middle School each year. Kloss notes that most of the hundreds of seats in the school’s auditorium are filled for the holiday show. The performance always ends with a standing ovation.
This year’s annual Christmas concert is December 18 at 3 p.m. If you want a good seat, Kloss recommends you arrive early.