Over the Hill Gang retires after more than 25 years of musical performances

The Gang perfomed at seniors centres and care homes in Ladysmith, Chemainus, Ducan and Nanaimo

The Over the Hill Gang. Back Row: Jack Maier, Hilary Bell, Henry Wheat Front:,Diana Hart, Nancy Sauvageau, Cora Maier, Jackie Ross (Submitted photo)

Ladysmith’s Over the Hill Gang played their final show after more than 25 years entertaining the community at care homes in Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan and Nanaimo.

The Over the Hill Gang was created by Jack and Cora Maier as a way to liven up birthday parties at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre.

“It was just Cora and I. She played the keyboard, and I hummed along with her,” Jack said.

Music has always been with Jack and Cora. In her youth, Cora entered singing competitions and was trained on piano. Jack was a guitar player, and is known for making instruments. Both had careers with the Canadian military, and did not start performing music until they were retired.

Slowly over time, people came up and asked if they could join Jack and Cora — the gang grew from there. Hilary Bell, Henry Wheat, Diana Hart, Nancy Sauvageau, and Jackie Ross joined the group, and others have been involved with the Over the Hill Gang over the years.

“It was wonderful. We were happy they joined us,” Cora said.

The Over the Hill Gang got up to eight to nine shows a month at various senior centres and home care facilities. They never charged money for their performances — they only ever asked for gas money if a show was far away. The Over the Hill Gang did not perform modern songs. They sang tunes that appealed to seniors.

“Somebody said, ‘we know the tunes, but we don’t know the words’, so Cora decided to create books with all the words of the songs we have,” Jack said.

They assembled song booklets with lyrics that they passed out at performances. With the song booklets in hand, everybody would join in the sing-along. Some of the most popular songs were ‘Blueberry Hill’ by Fats Domino, and ‘Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy’ by Red Foley.

Studies have shown that listening to music or singing songs can bring emotional and behavioural benefits to people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Music memory is one of the areas of the brain that remains mostly undamaged by Alzheimer’s. Jack and Cora said they would regularly see people in care homes respond positively to the music.

“They’d wheel them in, they’re staring at the ceiling or the wall. I remember distinctly there was a particular rhythm, a sound, a song, and I remember seeing a lady who didn’t move — except her foot was moving. Sometimes it was a hand moving, or they started to move just a bit. I could see we were getting through to them,” Jack said. “That was a regular reaction we had quite often.”

The Over the Hill Gang performed for the last time at the Ladysmith Senior’s Centre. Jack is now 89, and Cora is 85. They decided it was time to stop performing as they had to cart around all the audio equipment, set it up, and take it down for every show. They said the experience was bittersweet.

The Over the Hill Gang will continue to get together to stay connected and share some songs among themselves.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Climbers compete for Choc and Chalk

Annual competition attracts more than 100

Cowichan resident with dementia breaks silence on stigma in Alzheimer Society campaign

“I don’t think I’ve encountered stigma as much as I’ve encountered a lack of understanding”

Cowichan’s Achurch named all-star MVP

LMG goalie and teammate Scott help VISL beat FVSL

Indian Day School survivors can now submit claims for $10K-$200K in compensation

Anyone who is part of the class action is being encouraged to start the process now

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

Most Read