Jean Fischer

Jean Fischer

Music keeps band young at heart

Tessa Clayton Photos
Members of the Misfits serenaded residents of Chateau Manor at one of their many local performances. The group’s average age is 89 years old, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they play.

It’s not about how old you are, but how young you feel — and members of The Misfits can certainly attest to that.

The quartet of musicians play at senior residences in Trail, Castlegar and other local towns.

Playing old jazz, 40’s blues and throwing in some rock and roll occasionally to mix things up, the Misfits know exactly how to please their audiences.

“We play the music we grew up with and it suits the older people,” said Jean Fischer.

“We’re the same age as they are,” cut in Jack Vellutini, 91.

“In fact, we’re probably older than a lot of them!” laughed Fischer.

“Working with these older people, now that we’re at that age they relate to us and we relate to them and if enough of them turn out so you can see the reaction they’ll sing along with us and stuff. They like it, we’re playing their kind of music.”

That’s the real kicker — the youngest Misfit is 85 years old and the oldest is 95.

But the Misfits don’t let old age slow them down — they do all the set-up, sound checks and take down of their equipment, leaving a walker by the door. They’re quite efficient at it, and they get the job done with smiles and laughs — not to mention some yelling to make sure they’re heard by their partially deaf drummer and comedic relief, “Cookie” L’Ecluse.

Their passion for music of all genres is what keeps them going, and they’ve been performing together for the past 20 years. When they play, the effects of time fade away and Vellutini said he feels much, much younger.

“I can’t walk too well these days,” he said. “But the music, I don’t know what I’d do without it. Oh god yes, it keeps me going.”

With Fischer on the piano, Lorne DePaolis playing the trumpet, Vellutini serenading audiences with his smooth voice between stints on his trombone and L’Ecluse banging out on his recycled suitcase bass drum, the four prove that you don’t have to be young and signed to a record label to make music that people love.

“I love music and I love this,” said Dorothy Streif, a resident at Chateau Manor where the Misfits were playing. “If I could only dance more, but I get so dizzy I can’t.”

“They’re fantastic, we’ve had them here before and I just love them. I just wouldn’t miss it — I could hardly get out of bed to get down here but here I am!”

Due to their age and their love of all things music, the group has lived through music evolution over the years.

“I grew up with the old standards, all the music was written and very melodic — nowadays, it’s just a beat, there’s no melody anymore,” said DePaolis.

“But I like all kinds of music — I can’t say I’m crazy about rap or hip-hop because it doesn’t make sense to me, but I like rock ‘n roll. We went through all those phases; the big band era, rock ‘n roll, Elvis Presley, Billy Joel, Elton John.”

Moving seamlessly from one song to next, doing everything off-the-cuff, it’s clear that the group loves what they do. Music is a huge part of all of their lives, and besides their band, they all participate in other musical endeavors too.

“This keeps us going,” said Fischer. “It’s not a challenge for any of us, it’s our pleasure, it’s a lot of fun and we look forward to every gig.”

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