Granny spits rhymes at 80

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - TORIKA TOKALAU-CHAN­DRA

Sixty years ago Sheila Sum­mers was told she couldn’t sing, now she’s forg­ing a stage ca­reer as a rap­ping granny.

The 80-year-old Auck­land woman, who may well be New Zealand’s old­est rap­per, earned the name ‘‘Granny Rap­per’’ af­ter she be­came the res­i­dent rap­per in se­nior singing group NZ Young@Heart Cho­rus.

The group of more than 40 singers, all over the age of 70, sing strictly rock and pop songs, usu­ally favoured by younger gen­er­a­tions.

NZ Young@Heart Cho­rus be­gan five years ago af­ter be­ing in­spired by an Amer­i­can group of the same name that shot to world­wide fame more than 10 years ago through doc­u­men­tary Young@Heart.

The group chal­lenges the per­cep­tions of ag­ing and pro­mote the im­por­tance of mu­sic for life­long health and well­be­ing with songs by Adele, One Di­rec­tion, Pink, Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson.

Sum­mers, a former ac­tress who’s starred in New Zealand’s long­est soap drama Short­land Street, loves rap.

The Royal Oak res­i­dent hasn’t sung since she was 17 years old, when a choir leader told her she wasn’t cut out for it.

But af­ter join­ing the NZ Young@Heart Cho­rus as its sec­re­tary five years ago, the choir’s mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Chris Be­van rec­om­mended she try rap­ping.

‘‘It’s quite fun,’’ Sum­mers said.

‘‘For years I’ve been an ac­tress and us­ing my voice so the idea of us­ing it in a mod­ern way is quite fun.

‘‘When we go out to schools, the kids have no idea and they just roar - to see an old lady get up and rap.’’

Sum­mers, who raps to Pink’s Per­fect and Tay­lor Swift’s Shake It Off, said she did not get ner­vous be­fore shows.

‘‘When you’ve done poetry speak­ing and Shake­speare as I have, rap­ping is not that hard - you just have to keep to the beat.

‘‘Fun­nily enough, I al­ways slip into an Amer­i­can ac­cent ev­ery time I rap.’’

The NZ Young@Hearts Choir’s a fam­ily af­fair for Sum­mers. Her hus­band Norman is also a mem­ber - he’s a bari­tone and sings Adele’s Hello.

Sum­mers’ daugh­ter is the group’s stage man­ager and her grand­son plays the gui­tar.

The NZ Young@Heart Choir per­forms in Christchurch on Satur­day.

CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Sheila Sum­mers, aka Granny Rap­per, was told she couldn’t sing when she was 17 years old.

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