CATONSVILLE, MD (January 6, 2015) -- It was standing room only as Dawn Strumsky and Sue Ellen Grove sang their song—a duet of "It's Raining Men"—during a recent Late Night at the Terrace Café karaoke event at Charlestown retirement community.
"It wasn't something I planned on doing; it was completely spontaneous," said Strumsky.
The Wednesday Late Night karaoke events are the collaboration of resident Ray Miles, a musician and retired Prince George's public school teacher, and Charlestown Sales Associate Patti Goldberg.
"Mr. Miles was instrumental in getting the karaoke night started," said Goldberg. "I ran into him one day, and he mentioned the idea. I loved it. Ironically, my brother-and-law Raymond is in a band, and he and I have organized karaoke for family functions. This sounded like it would be a lot of fun."
Karaoke is a Japanese phenomenon that didn't catch on in the United States until well into the 1980s, but the crowd at Charlestown is learning fast. The bimonthly events draw upwards of 80-plus people who gather in the Terrace Café to enjoy food, soft drinks, and spirits as they sing along to old favorites like, "I've Got You, Babe" and "Moon River" as they watch the lyrics roll across the television prompter.
"It's a lot of fun," said Goldberg, who meanders through the crowd looking for willing participants. "I try to work the room and get everybody involved. Some people are a little gun-shy at first, but they but they end up loving it."
The energetic atmosphere prompts both staff and residents to take to the spotlight. Between the many community members, vocal styles, and song preferences, by the end of the night, every toe in the house is tapping along.
Having a venue where he can enjoy music and spend fun-filled evenings with friends was one of the things that attracted Miles to Charlestown.
"I'm glad that the karaoke has been such a huge success. We had so many people there the first night, they couldn't all fit in the café. Patti has such a warm, friendly, effervescent personality; she really gets people going," said Miles.
For some Charlestown residents, this was their first time singing with karaoke.
"Trying to follow the bouncing words and sing with the recorded music proved to be a bit challenging at first, but everyone was having so much fun, no one seemed to care," said Miles.
In addition to karaoke, Miles has recently added an open mic night to the Terrace Café's monthly lineup.
"It's like a coffee house atmosphere," he said. "We have residents who volunteer playing piano and others who get up and sing. Once, we had a resident from Brazil bring her castanets and sing a song in Portuguese. People have read poetry and performed short skits—we end up with an interesting variety of different acts."
Miles hopes the momentum will continue with Late Night in the Terrace Café and welcomes ideas for more fun-filled evening events.
"I hope this is just the beginning of many more events to come," he said. "I consider myself a night person, so I can envision all kinds of fun events taking place."