Oldies but goodies are still making beautiful music together

The Presbyterian Home Band performs through their golden years

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Chuck Murphy

RALEIGH — Strumming washtubs and shaking maracas made out of commode floaters, a group of N.C. senior citizens are making beautiful music together. The Presbyterian Home Band is a group of musicians, mostly in their 80s, who travel the state performing concerts with entirely homemade instruments, save a piano. But it’s not just whistling Dixie — this band has been doing its thing for more than 50 years and are booked for concerts years in advance.”We share the joy of taking handmade things and make a joyful noise with them,” said Rachel Dunn, the band’s director.Hailing from Colifax, N.C., near High Point, the band has been performing since 1962, rotating participants as needed. In fact, there is a waiting list to join the group and take up a vacuum cleaner hose “french horn” or a set of sink stopper “bells.” The more than two dozen musicians do an average of around four or five concerts a month across the state, except their busy time at Christmas when they are likely to perform six times. While the average age in the band is 82, the oldest musician is 96 and the youngest is 68.”We try not to go further than two hours away. You know we are all old,” said Dunn. “We meet once a week for one hour and they get three months off in the summer. That gives me a chance to plan more music and get it all organized. They always say, ‘Can’t we go ahead and get started?’ and I always say no, not until the middle of August.”All of the musicians live together at River Landing at Sandy Ridge Retirement Community, but this crew is hardly living laid-back golden years. From August through May they tour on a bus together for their gigs. They visit school groups, other retirement homes and churches. This week they entertained a crowd at Millbrook United Methodist Church, only putting down their washtubs, cheese box and glass bottles to sit down and break bread with the audience in a covered dish lunch.”They are just so happy, they love being in the band.” said Dunn. “Statistics have proven that if you are active you live longer and you are happier.”Some of their most popular tunes are Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World (Jeremiah Was A Bull Frog)”, “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Grandfather’s Clock” and of course, North Carolina’s state song, “The Old North State,” along with some other Carolina favorites.”We said we have to do something to celebrate N.C.,” said Dunn. “We have such a beautiful state. We have the mountains and the Piedmont and the coast. What could be better than ‘Carolina in the Morning’ and ‘Carolina Moon’?”The band wrapped up their concert with a patriotic collection of “God Bless America” and the song of each branch of the U.S. military. The community performance warmed the chilly weekday afternoon, bringing the audience to their feet and a few tears to their eyes.The band has been featured on UNC-TV and has several YouTube videos out there if you want to tune into their brand of makeshift