There aren’t too many places where you can hear a voice as fine as Salvatore Chiarelli’s for less than most venues charge for a cup of coffee.
The 120 seniors attending the Welcome Back lunch at the YM-YWHA of Union County, on Sept. 23 seemed mindful of their luck. For $3 — $2 for members — they enjoyed a hearty spaghetti lunch and a generous portion of Chiarelli’s repertoire of opera favorites.
Sam Odinsky of Elizabeth, an opera lover from way back, said he was very impressed with the singer’s seemingly effortless range. “I wear a hearing aid and that can make it worse if the upper notes are harsh,” he said, “but he was mellow all the way.”
Susan Silberner, who runs the senior adult programming at the Union Y, said she leaped at the chance to hire Chiarelli for the lunch launching the fall series of programs. The singer, a former accountant and music teacher who began singing professionally less than two years ago, named a fee within her budget. She said, “I thought if he sounds as good in person as he did on the disk he sent me, it would be great — and he does.”
Chiarelli, using a taped accompaniment, sang without a microphone, filling the auditorium with his rich tenor. Talking after his performance, he said he is already getting enough bookings to make singing a full-time profession — to his delight. “I’ve always loved singing,” he said, “but a few years ago I started lessons with an amazing teacher. He really taught me how to use my voice.” He lives in New York City but has been performing all over the region.
Sally Straus, an aide to the mayor of Union, attended the lunch as a guest. She said she has also hired Chiarelli for other events in the city. “Isn’t he terrific?” she said.
Jani Jonas, the Y’s program director, said the institution, mindful of the economic stress many people are facing, is “making a point of offering particularly affordable programs this fall.”
Prices for upcoming events range from free to a couple of dollars for classes and activities, to Senior Sunday Fundays, featuring exercise, brunch and entertainment, for $7, $5 for members. There are also bigger-ticket outings to Manhattan — with transportation by luxury bus and orchestra seats — to shows like Shalom Aleichem, starring Theodore Bickel, Hair, and Bye Bye Birdie.