At 90, Nora still has a song in her heart

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

Nora Barton may be 90 years old but she is still hitting the high notes with her gift for singing and love of performing.

The sprightly Brighouse pensioner fell in love with music as a child and she still has a song in her heart and a love of entertaining others with numbers from her repertoire.

Nora Barton

Nora Barton

Despite a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Nora’s voice is as strong as ever and her memory for the old favourites remains undimmed.

To celebrate her 90th birthday, she gave a concert at St John’s Community Hall, Rastrick, where friends and family joined her in an afternoon of song and laughter.

Nora, of Lower Newlands, said: “I’m nervous until I get on the stage then, when I start singing, the nerves disappear.”

Born in 1923 in Birmingham, Nora came from a musical family where a love of singing was encouraged.

“I sang at school, at Sunday school and at home,” said Nora.

After she left school and started work in a factory, she started saving her wages to pay for professional singing lessons. From the age of 18 she had lessons with Madame Dickinson at the music department of the Midland Institute, now the Birmingham Conservatoire.

The vocal techniques she learned have stayed with her all her life, enabling her to turn semi-professional in her 40s and carry on singing for Derby and Joan clubs and senior citizens groups in the Midlands and Yorkshire.

Since moving to Brighouse in the mid-1990s, Nora has become a regular performer in St John’s Voices and the Rastrick Voices. She sang in a senior citizens’ concert at Brighouse High School and also sings at the fortnightly Cornerstone Memory Cafe, for people with Alzheimer’s, in Brighouse.

Nora’s daughter, Pam Dimbleby, said: “I can remember, growing up as a child, that mum was always singing round the house and she still does.

“When she was in her 40s, she would earn a bit of money performing in clubs in the Midlands - my dad would drive her and she would do an hour’s spot.

“I think she still has an amazing voice at 90. She must know dozens of songs and she can still hit the high notes with ease.

“She loves performing and has wanted to give a concert at St John’s for a long time. Her birthday gave us an excellent opportunity to organise this for her and to invite friends from other walks of her life.”

Pam and her husband Rod helped organise the concert and joined Nora on stage. Nora also sang a comedy duet with Graham Readshaw and performed ‘My Hero’ from ‘The Chocolate Soldier’ with Ted Hever who is well-known among light opera groups and also attends the Cornerstone Cafe in Brighouse.

Pam said: “Nora held the stage for about an hour and at the end we presented her with a mock gold disc to commemorate more than 70 years of singing.”

Nora makes occasional guest appearances at the Shaggy Dog Storytelling Club in Hebden Bridge - where son-in-law Rod is a regular performer - and on a recent visit back to the Midlands, she sang at the Birmingham Storytelling Cafe.

She sings regularly at senior citizens’ clubs - even though she is older than many of the other members.

Nora said: “I love singing romantic ballads and songs from operetta. I don’t know how but I can remember the words to dozens of songs.”

l The Cornerstone Memory Cafe meets at Brighouse Civic Hall on the second and fourth Wednesday in the month from 2pm to 4pm.

A dementia support worker from the Alzheimer’s Society attends and the cafe is an informal opportunity for those with dementia or memory loss to enjoy each other’s company.