Opinion

Singers live up to their name

Check out the lounge at the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center on a Tuesday morning and you’ll often meet several of the Evergreen Singers, a group of about 30 men and women who love to sing. They are there waiting to begin a rehearsal or a concert at the Island Health and Rehabilitation Center, Messenger House or other locale where they are scheduled to entertain that day.

“The Evergreen Singers live up to their name,” said choir director Charlene Moore. “Green, from the old English ‘grene,’ means youthful, vigorous, covered by growth or foliage.”

For this choir, the foliage is in their concert attire, a scarf or vest of green to compliment their dark pants and white shirts.

The group members are youthful in spirit, often breaking out in laughter or song for the sheer joy of it and demonstrating their vigor with every performance.

They are creative as well. Bob Leik wrote The Senior Center Song and Libby Kresky has written many others. Peter Hasson wants to conduct a Beatles piece, more like rock music than the numbers usually performed. Moore encourages these innovations.

“We are always up for a challenge,” she said.

Membership in the Evergreen Singers is open to anyone 55 or older. No audition is required, only a desire to sing. Director Charlene Moore and accompanist Nancy Bergman are both dedicated and talented professional musicians with the patience and ability to motivate, encourage and mold all comers into the wonderful singers we so enjoy listening to at the Evergreen Singers concerts.

So if you feel the urge to break out in song, don’t confine it to the shower. Join the Evergreen Singers. It’s actually good for your health.

“When we sing instead of speak, we have intonation, melody line and crescendo, which gives us a broader vocabulary to express ourselves,” said Suzanne Hanser, chair of the music therapy department at Berklee College of Music. “Because singing is visceral (relating to or affecting our bodies), it can’t help but effect change.”

Other studies have linked singing with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure and reduced stress, according to Patricia Preston-Roberts, a board-certified music therapist in New York City.

Singing, particularly in a chorus, seems to especially benefit the elderly. As part of a three-year study examining how singing affects the health of those 55 and older, a Senior Singers Chorale was formed by the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C. The seniors involved in the chorale showed significant health improvements compared to those in the control group. There were fewer doctor visits, fewer eyesight problems, less incidence of depression, less need for medication and fewer falls and other injuries.

Lead researcher, Gene D. Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was surprised at how big an effect the seniors’ participation had on their health, even at an advanced age (the average age of all the subjects was 80).

The seniors themselves also noticed health improvements, according to the group’s leader, Jeanne Kelly, director of the Levine School of Music’s Arlington campus. They reported feeling better in both daily life and while singing. They felt their everyday voice quality was better and the tone of their speaking voice did not seem to age as much. They noted better posture and easier breathing as well.

Much of this seems to be true for the Evergreen Singers. Charlene Moore related to me a comment by Peter Hasson, who sings bass in the choir, that he has noticed how people light up the minute they come into the choir room. They smile, breathe, and just seem much livelier than they did when he saw them just five minutes before.

I asked Helen Suits, another member of the group, why she enjoyed being in the choir. Her answer: “It’s just so much fun to sing!”

If all this makes you want to burst forth in song, do it – in the shower, in the car, or at the senior center’s informal Friday sing-alongs, led by Sam Schwartz in the lounge before lunch. That way you’ll be ready to join the Evergreen Singers when they resume rehearsals in September and reap all the health and recreational benefits singing can provide.

Enjoy summer, now that it’s really here. Pay attention to your health and belt out those tunes!

Marcia Rudoff

writes the monthly

Senior Outlook for the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center.

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