Of the 80 voices that make up the Chorus of the Southern Finger Lakes, only one female can claim the role of a tenor: 94-year-old Jean Gerych.

Of the 80 voices that make up the Chorus of the Southern Finger Lakes, only one female can claim the role of a tenor: 94-year-old Jean Gerych.

Gerych, who lives in Bath and commutes to Corning and Elmira for rehearsals and performances, has been part of the chorus since 1971. A longtime music lover, Gerych credits her long life to the joy of singing.

“I’ve always loved chorus since I was a little girl, I used to sing in the junior high school in all the productions,” Gerych said. “So that’s why I just keep continuing. Every year I say I’m going to quit but I don’t know, it just keeps me alive. I love it.”

Gerych, who used to sing soprano for the chorus, attributes her age to her recent vocal switch to tenor.

“I’m the only female tenor that sings. It might sound crazy, but I can’t help it; I don’t like alto or soprano, it’s hard for me,” Gerych said. “I used to sing soprano years ago and then my voice got heavier and so I dropped down to tenor and I never changed.”

William Cowdery, director of the Chorus of the Southern Finger Lakes, pointed out how uncharacteristic it is for a woman to sing tenor.

“It’s usually a high men’s range,” Cowdery said. “It’s unusual ... but she loves to sing tenor.”

According to Cowdery, Gerych not only brings femininity to the tenor section, but also an uplifting spirit to the chorus as a whole.

“She has the spunk of somebody half of her age, easily,” Cowdery said. “She just lights the place up; she’s a barrel of fun and we all have a great time with her.”

A native of Long Island, Gerych’s love for music only rivals her love for hairdressing. After attending beauty school in Manhattan, Gerych moved to Bath in 1953 with her family and worked as a hairdresser until the age of 75.
Even at 94, Gerych’s performance instinct and hairdresser background come into play at the chance of a public outing.

“I’ll fix up my hair a little bit,” she said, describing her routine to get ready for choir practice. “I haven’t got a perm right now; my hair is straight as a whistle, so I’ll put a couple little curls in it.”

It’s this maintenance that keeps Gerych looking young in her older years.

“I color my hair,” she said. “I’ve been a hairdresser so why should I have white hair? That’s why nobody takes me for 94.”

Gerych will perform along with the chorus at the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes’ “Return to Spring” concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Clemens Center for the Performing Arts in Elmira.

The OSFL’s spring concert will also include the organization’s Youth Orchestra and Junior String Ensemble, 16-year old cellist Annie Jacobs-Perkins, and guest vocal soloists Brenda Dawe, Michael Burrell, Brad Hougham and Ivy Walz.

The OSFL is directed by Toshiyuki Shimada.

Tickets are $15, $35 and $45. They are $10 for college students and $8 for youths under 18. Tickets are available at www.osfl.org or by calling the Clemens Center box office at 734-8191.