Symphony of life
04 May 2023
Her dad taught her to play the piano at the age of five - and in the 72 years since, Judy Nicholls’ love of music has never waned.
She plays the piano, the organ, the omnichord and the ukelele, she has spent decades working as a school and home music teacher, and for much of her married life she’s been involved in the musical programme at her local church.
But since moving into Pinesong Village seven years ago, the vivacious virtuoso has really turned up the tempo.
“When we moved in, the first thing I started was a ukelele group. I’d never actually played before but I bought myself one and picked it up,” says Judy.Now a band of ten, and recently renamed the Pinesong Rockers, the group is a highlight at the annual Nostalgia concerts and Christmas shows, and they’ve even performed gigs outside the village.
“There are people in that group who have never picked up a musical instrument until now. One of our ladies has always dreamed of playing an instrument and performing on stage, and now at nearly 90, she’s finally getting her chance.”
Judy’s lifelong love of singing has also proven to be a boon. Once a month she visits nearby Powley Village to lead sing-a-longs for the care home residents, and she is also choir master for Pinesong’s highly regarded 30-strong choir, the Pinesongsters.
“I took that on about a year ago. It was a bit scary at first because the choir had been running for over 20 years and there were big shoes to fill, but I decided not take it too seriously. Some choir masters start their practices by doing voice exercises – I just tell jokes to get people’s bodies moving! Rather than doing everything perfectly, for me it’s more about the feeling the music inspires. I think there’s no right or wrong way to take a choir. You do you!”
In the case of the Pinesongsters, she’s clearly right. ‘Showtime’ was the choir’s first performance under her tutelage, and it was such a hit that they’re currently preparing for ‘Showtime 2’. The secret to her success? Keeping it simple – and tuneful.
“As we get older our voices change dramatically. There’s nothing worse than screeching old people’s voices so I strive to get everyone in a range where we can all sound our best.”
When she’s not leading the choir or strumming the ukelele you’ll likely find Judy twiddling the ivories of Pinesong’s grand piano.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played the piano as much as I have since moving into the village!”
Every Wednesday morning she plays for NU2U, a resident-run second hand clothing pop-up shop that’s raised more than $20,000 for St John Ambulance.
“I just play the piano as background music to entice people to come in and look at the clothes.”
Judy’s music enriches the lives of so many residents. So much so, that during lockdown Pinesong staff set her up with an electric piano, projecting her music through the speakers and across the village for a couple of hours each week.
“People could be out walking or have their lounge doors open and hear the music, which I think helped us all feel a bit more connected.”
Building connections through music has been Judy’s life’s work - and she’s still just warming up.
“I’m about to restart our monthly village sing-a-longs in the Pinesong lounge. It’s nice to do something a bit different.”