Seniors help seniors through song
For retirees Luke Moore and Kitty Collins, performing as The Mellow Tones is anything but mellow
A man and a woman, thats how it begins.
Theyve been watching each other perform all night, each taking turns singing into the stage lights at McQueens Bar and Grill in Milwaukie. After each karaoke number, they wait in line separately to choose a new song from the DJs catalog of backing tracks.
Their choices are all classics, tunes made famous by Perry Como, Dean Martin or Ella Fitzgerald.
Finally, after another few rounds, the woman asks the man if she might sing a song with him.
He says, yes.
Thats how Kitty Collins and Luke Moore met a year and a half ago.
As they tell it, after more karaoke, (a lot more karaoke, according to Collins), the two decided to start performing together regularly.
Today, Collins, 78, and Moore, 82, self-described best friends, work together as an artistic team, performing at birthday parties, assisted living centers, barbecues and, basically, anywhere that will have them.
Jointly, they call themselves The Mellow Tones, a reference both to the light, lilting tenor of their voices and to the tender, romantic feelings they sing about.
Most of our songs are love songs, and theyre quiet and very soft, Collins said.
I think we both listened to our voices... (theyre) not strong or bellowing, Moore added.
Their approach clearly works. The Mellow Tones have already had plenty of success sharing their voices.
Theyve produced one album of covers and a second, duets-only, record lies recorded but unreleased. Their first CD includes versions of Somethin Stupid (popularized by Frank and Nancy Sinatra), Unforgettable (Nat King Cole) and I Just Fall in Love Again (The Carpenters).
We love the classics. Songs that have something to say and have a beautiful melody, Collins said. And theres so many of them out there. More then well ever be able to sing.
Moore, who performs in white suit jackets and accented bowties, says that, so far, the feedback has been good.
It first started with people saying we were a spiffy couple, Moore said. And then from spiffy it went to cute couple.
Adorable couple, thats the last one we heard, Collins chimed in.
Then Moore remembers another comment, from a performance at a Lakewood Theatre party: Were not leaving until that couple up there stops singing. Then he laughs.
The Mellow Tones have also received recognition in local talent competitions.
Recently, the two placed in the semifinals for Portland Idol, a local singing competition, in the duo category. Moore, who recorded several albums and performed as a solo artist before meeting Collins, also advanced to the semifinals in the NorthWest Idol competition in 2012.
We enter a lot of karaoke contests, but this lady always beats me, Moore said, gesturing at the woman with dark red hair and an easy smile.
Besides the talent shows and karaoke nights, Collins and Moore have a monthly gig at the Golden Acres Retirement Center in Southeast Portland. And while they sell CDs and do their best to book events, both say the real reward comes in a different form of tender an audience full of warm, contented faces.
Collins explained: Seniors making other seniors happy, thats the real goal.
Of course, they still remember the night they met in Milwaukie a year and a half ago.
The man and the woman select a song, their first song together.
Its Unforgettable, the duet version. The man and the woman get up on the stage. They harmonize.
Thats why, darling, its incredible. That someone so unforgettable thinks that I am unforgettable, too.
The crowd loves it. The Mellow Tones are born.