Photo provided
The Silvernotes, a Hamilton County Extension Homemakers Chorus, will perform a free concert at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Christ United Methodist Church in Westfield. Donations will be accepted.
Photo provided The Silvernotes, a Hamilton County Extension Homemakers Chorus, will perform a free concert at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Christ United Methodist Church in Westfield. Donations will be accepted.

Sharon Piper has loved music ever since she can remember. As a child, she would tag along with her mom, Lucile Beechler, who sang in the Hamilton County Extension Homemakers Chorus, the Silvernotes.

“I apparently enjoyed the music,” said Piper, who took along toys to play with while her mom rehearsed with other women in the choir. She knew that she wanted to sing in the chorus someday because she watched her mother singing and having fun.

But it wasn’t until 30 years later that Piper joined the Silvernotes, after her own daughter went off to kindergarten.

“I always knew I wanted to sing, and I had the time,” said Piper, of Cicero, who has been a Silvernotes member ever since joining the chorus in 1975, at age 36.

Piper turned 80 on April 4. And she still loves singing with the Silvernotes, 44 years later.

The former Sharon Beechler, a native of Indianapolis whose family moved to Cicero when she was 5, started private oboe lessons in third grade and then played in the band and sang in the choir at Jackson Central High School. The 1957 graduate, who also played flute, saxophone and bass drum because she couldn’t march with the oboe, also taught herself the piano and still plays for her own enjoyment. She also sang in the former Cicero Christian Church choir.

“I’ve always loved music. It’s always been a part of my life,” said Piper, who is among 30 Silvernotes, whose members hail from Carmel, Cicero, Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield. The chorus will perform a free concert at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Christ United Methodist Church, 318 N. Union St., Westfield. The community is invited. Refreshments will be served, and donations will be appreciated.

Extension Homemaker Rachel Merrill, who is also the membership director for Westfield Washington Historical Society & Museum, contacted me about the Silvernotes’ upcoming performance. The Historical Society is presenting the concert, which has a Civil War theme. The chorus will sing patriotic tunes that include: On the Banks of the Wabash,” “America the Beautiful” and “I’ll Fly Away.” 

The Silvernotes have been singing all styles of music in soprano and alto harmony since 1936, just three years before Piper was born.

The choral club is part of the Cooperative Extension Service, an informal, educational outreach program of Purdue University, Indiana’s land grant university. Founded nationally in 1914, the Extension Service has served Hamilton County nearly a century, since 1918. The choral groups started more than 75 years ago in Indiana.

The Silvernotes are always looking for new members in the chorus, which now ranges in age from teens to octogenarians. They practice from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays at the O.V. Winks Building at the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds in Noblesville. They perform several times a year at various locations. After Tuesday, their itinerary includes: a mother-daughter banquet on May 5 at Sheridan Christian Church; a community concert at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 16 at Noblesville Jim Dandy Restaurant, a concert at 4 p.m. May 19 at Warsaw Performing Arts Center, a statewide chorus concert at 7 p.m. June 4 at St. Luke’s Methodist Church, and Extension Homemakers’ Achievement Day on June 27 at the Fairgrounds. 

Then each July, Piper is a cashier at the Silvernotes’ elephant ear stand at the Hamilton County 4-H Fair. Their largest fundraiser, the chorus uses the proceeds to buy costumes and music and to pay director Diana Stanton and piano accompanist Emily Block.

Each of the choral groups around the state receive the same music from Purdue, so they can sing with each other’s’ groups. Each summer, the Silvernotes learn 10 new songs to add to their repertoire.

Piper -- who married her high school sweetheart, Dennis Piper, in 1958 -- said the women enjoy their friendships and share their common bond, “the love of music.” Plus, they love to eat. “We sing, eat, and we’re very good friends. Anybody is always welcome,” she said. “We have a lot of fun. We enjoy each other’s company. It’s just a great joy to me.”

Singing in the Silvernotes brings a great deal of happiness to a lot of women, particularly Betty Jo Christy, Sheridan, 80, who has been singing with the Silvernotes for 48 years. She has had multiple sclerosis for 39 years.

Christy sings with the group with encouragement from her doctor. “My neurologist told me, whatever I do, don’t give up my music,” Christy told me when I saw her perform with the Silvernotes in 2017 at Jim Dandy. When it was time to start that night, the chorus sang four amazing sets, accompanied by a keyboardist and, at one point, a Suzuki digital sound guitar.

Christy loves music and singing and joined, too, because her mother was in the Silvernotes. It just seemed natural. The low-alto singer, who grew up in Sheridan and graduated in 1957, said a lot of mothers, daughters and sisters belong, including her sister, Marilyn Turnbull of Cicero.

Piper agreed that music is good for the body and soul. 

She said, “I definitely thinks it helps our health and our mental attitude.”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com