They may be 80 but Norman Fairley and Sheila Summers are young at heart.
The Kiwi couple are members of the NZ Young@Heart singing group preparing to unleash hits from the likes of Adele, One Direction and Michael Jackson on stage.
You have to be aged over 70 to join this 40-strong band of wrinkly rockers who are hitting the road for their biggest live concerts yet.
The NZ Young@Heart Chorus has been active in the Auckland community scene since it was founded nearly five years ago. They practise once a week and regularly perform small concerts to audiences that include schools and prisons.
Norman turned 80 last month. He can’t wait to get on stage and belt out a unique version of Adele’s signature song Hello. His missus, who is 80 in August, will entertain fans by rapping on Perfect by Pink.
“When we perform at schools, the kids just start roaring when they see an old lady doing a rap, but I love it,” Sheila said. “And when we played the women’s prison at Wiri, the inmates nearly raised the roof when we sang Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.”
The couple, from Royal Oak, Auckland, have been together 37 years and are no strangers to show business.
In her day, former actress Sheila appeared in Kiwi soap operas Close to Home and Shortland Street Norman, also an actor, starred as a one-legged pirate alongside Hollywood favourite Tommy Lee Jones in the 1983 action movie Savage Islands.
Sheila was told in her youth by a theatre director she couldn’t sing, so she didn’t throughout her career.
Norman joined The NZ Young@Heart Chorus first, in 2012 and eventually persuaded Sheila to become their rapper.
“At first I thought I was going to just be the secretary but next thing I was singing and learning to play the ukulele,” she said.
The family connections don’t stop there. One of the couple’s three grandchildren is guitarist in the backing band and daughter Annie is the stage manager.
“For small gigs we use backing tapes but nothing beats singing in front of a live group,” Sheila said.
Music has long been a proven stress, pain and anxiety reliever and now it is proving to be a bridge in the generation gap, too.
The Chorus boosts camaraderie, promotes wellness and gives its members a real sense of purpose.
They are also proud that research shows singing speeds up recovery in stroke victims and synchronises heartbeats.
“Music keeps our brains alive and helps to give us a purpose in life,” Sheila said.
Chris Bevan, musical director and founding member of the NZ Young@Heart Chorus, said the group can’t wait to perform at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre, Auckland, tonight and The Piano in Christchurch on April 8.
“We are excited to show New Zealand that there’s much good health, happiness and inspiration to be made through singing modern music. We have an entirely new set list for these shows, there’s definitely something in there for everyone.”