This is the last newsletter and podcast of the year, and with the holidays upon us, I thought it would be fun to wrap up with something a little different and uplifting, after the awful year that was 2020.
So – how about a little holiday music from the country’s largest choral group for singers over age 55?
Encore Creativity is the nation’s largest choral organization for older adults. Based in Maryland, Encore has 15 chorales and six rock and roll choruses in the metropolitan Baltimore-Washington area, as well as a chorale in New York City.
The organization is led by Jeanne Kelly, a professional vocalist, performer, teacher, conductor and music administrator who started the group in 2001. Encore got its start when Jeanne was approached by Dr. Gene Cohen, the well-known pioneer researcher on creativity and older adults. Cohen, who died in 2009, was a founder of the national movement around positive aging, and he argued against the old stereotypes that aging leads to an inevitable decline in physical and mental capacity.
Cohen wanted Jeanne to start a choral group for older people as part of a landmark research project he was conducting. It would examine how older adults would be affected if they had the chance to study choral music under a professional conductor. So Jeane agreed to start a group.
The study found a wide array of positive effects – better physical health, fewer doctor visits, less use of medication and fewer falls. And the singers reported better morale and less loneliness.
One thing led to another, and Jeanne Kelly is still at it today. Encore Creativity has grown tremendously over the years, with around 800 singers participating in more than 20 programs. Most of them are up and down the east coast, but there are some affiliated programs elsewhere. These are no-audition groups – everyone is welcome – which is amazing considering the quality you will hear in the music on the podcast.
This year, of course, the pandemic forced Encore to adapt – all of its programs went virtual, which presented some challenges. But their work is coming to fruition with the group’s first virtual holiday concert, which Encore produced along with AARP. That debuts this evening – December 17th at Encore’s website. But it will be available on demand throughout the holidays at that web address.
On the podcast, you’ll hear excerpts from Encore’s 2019 Kennedy Center performance. I hope you’ll give it a listen – and tune in to the entire program tonight or during the holidays.