- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

ILLIOPOLIS, Ill. (AP) - To make music from a teapot can be easy, but to make it a performance takes more talent, or maybe spunk.

The Illiopolis Kitchen Band is a group of retired women who play instruments made up of various household items. “Anything you can find in the kitchen, we play it,” said Rita Turnbull.

The porcelain teapots are a popular instrument among the group. But they have also created music through washboards, laundry detergents boxes, cake racks, coffee cans and even bed pans. The songs they play are just as eclectic, such as “Strolling through the Park” and “Oh Where has My Little Dog Gone.”

The choice of music is selected to entertain Illiopolis residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“We try to go where there’s Illiopolis people,” said band member, Rosella Young. “Otherwise, we would be busy every week.”

They have traveled to Chatham, Taylorville, Decatur and Springfield to perform the monthly shows.

The band was formed in 1976 by Young’s mother, Helen Ervin, for the Bicentennial program at a local school. The group decided to focus on the community members living in nursing homes.

For 40 years, band members have come and gone. Some play instruments that can be purchased in a music store, but the majority of the pieces are handmade. The band credits Emily Strum as their singer.

“I also play the measuring cups and spoons,” she said.

The music is only part of the show. For an hour, the band plays 32 songs mixed with skits, dancing and audience participation. Each band member has their own bag filled with hats, instruments and trinkets.

During the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the band will throw balls to each other and some of the residents. Throughout the Easter songs, one of the ladies will jump like a bunny. The group will also dance an Irish jig.

“We try our best,” Turnbull said.

The group is famous for the teapots and their rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot.” They will change the spouts during the songs, except for Frankie Reynolds. When asked by the others why she doesn’t participate, she answers, “Because I’m the sugar bowl.”

The song choices have been selected not for their simplicity, but because of the familiarity by the residents. According to band member Mary Hawkins, the simple songs can be taught to 5-year-olds.

“It just brings back memories,” she said. “They just adore them.”

But the show isn’t just for the audience. The band members also have a good time.

“After I go I feel so good,” said Carolyn Keleher. “Those people just really love us.”

The mission of the group is to bring fun to the residents, but to enjoy themselves as well.

“You have to be a quick-change artist,” Hawkins said. “It’s like being in vaudeville.”

The band members find happiness and energy through the reactions of the residents.

“We’ve had people (in the audience) who haven’t spoken, but they will get up and sing,” Young said.

Little practice is needed before the performances. The band relies on the residents to help them with the songs and the skits. And banging on a laundry detergent box just requires rhythm.

“We make so much noise they can’t hear the singing,” Turnbull said.


Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/1nesGEY


Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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