She sings for the love of it
After spending 15 minutes with Carol Opatrny, no one would believe her eager and continuous involvement in the Velvet Tones choir as anything less than sincere.
The Velvet Tones are a Dakota County singing group comprised of approximately 70 senior citizens, and Carol Opatrny has been a dedicated member for nearly a decade.
Opatrny does not boast her involvement or brag of her dedication. To her, the Velvet Tones performance choir is not a moment in the limelight; it is merely a "neat" experience with a group of friends.
A performer from an early age, Opatrny began her musical career in elementary school, when she learned to play the piano and became involved in a cherub church choir. Looking back on her musical beginnings, Opatrny can't help but laugh when asked the specific time her musical endeavors began.
"You can't expect me to remember that," Opatrny said. With a chuckle, she reminisced of her four great-grandchildren, and the fact that her life began before the modern luxuries of TV and the plastic industry.
Opatrny's involvement with the Velvet Tones began shortly after a fond "shirt-tail friend" suggested she join. Getting Opatrny's husband involved was a different struggle, but approximately six months after Carol joined, her husband followed. Unfortunately, Opatrny's involvement in the choir with her husband did not last long as he passed shortly after. Thankfully, Opatrny had the choir to help her through the grieving.
"I like the camaraderie of the group," Opatrny said. "They're just a fun, neat group to sing with. We've had a few members remarried and we've lost members time to time. The Velvet Tones sang at (my husband's) funeral and sang at others who have died since. This is kind of my family, my singing group."
With her caring demeanor and catching personality, it is no surprise Opatrny has formed family relationships with her fellow Velvet Tones. One bittersweet friendship includes a friend of Opatrny's who is no longer able to sing in the choir due to health reasons; however that doesn't keep Opatrny from paying her friend an occasional visit.
Apart from the friendships she has formed, Opatrny also credits the choir for the fun experiences she has had over the past 10 years.
With the Velvet Tones, Opatrny is able to bring music to the public approximately 35 times a year. She sings with the group for audiences of all ages and performs at numerous concerts. Previous performances have been held at care centers, Memorial Day services and art events, including at the Guthrie Theater. Opatrny basks in the joy that each performance allows the choir to alter their musical material. The group sings everything from the cool rhythms of "All that Jazz," to the low rumbles of Johnny Cash medleys and the up-beat tempos of "Splish Splash." Opatrny has trouble choosing a favorite music genre, however she isn't afraid to talk about the performances she finds most moving.
"What is always the most fun is the elementary schools," Opatrny said. "They fill up the auditorium and really get into it. Even when we perform for seniors in the care centers they will sing along. Song is a language that everybody relates to. Song, music, has a message in it. It's not just important in my own life, but in everyone's life."
In the end, Opatrny sums up her involvement with the Velvet Tones in seven simple words. "I like music, and I like people." The fulfillment of these two timeless experiences makes her decade of dedication to the group nothing other, than enjoyable.