Senior Chorus Offers a Joyful Noise


(Wednesday, November 28, 2007 10:09 AM EST)

For senior citizens who like to sing but are hesitant to join a chorus, there's a vocal group that might be the perfect place to start.

The Voices of Arlington, a multicultural group of singers, invites anyone 55 years old or better to make music with them.

“The focus was to include people who might not be comfortable in existing senior citizen choruses that have members who are mostly Caucasians and are experienced singers,” said Voices of Arlington chorus director Stacie Steinke.

“It's more about singing for the joy of it, and joining people in a community,” said the group's pianist, Lisa Smith.

And with members from Peru, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia and Puerto Rico, among other countries, the community is a diverse one.

“The international quality is exciting,” said chorus member Jeane Frey.

Frey does not speak Spanish, but singing in Voices of Arlington has exposed her to songs in a number of different languages. The song “Pura Vida” is one of her favorites.

Since “music is the only language common to everyone,” Steinke said, rehearsing can be an interesting affair. But she tries to translate as much as possible, and urges the singers simply to listen and repeat what they hear.

The group meets once a week at the Walter Reed Community Center, and the songs they've worked on so far have ranged from “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” to “Que Bueno,” to “Shalom, Chaverim,” a Hebrew farewell song.

Steinke starts the rehearsals with vocal warm-ups and teaches the seniors how to breathe properly, which she hopes will help them with their daily life, as well.

Besides possible physical health benefits, Steinke and Smith believe membership in the Voices of Arlington gives the seniors a sense of community and belonging, resulting in mental and emotional benefits.

“Psychologically, it's a big pick-up,” Steinke said.

Chorus member Maria Riera is seen as a great example of how singing improves the quality of life.

“I've been singing since I was inside my mother's belly,” she said. “I like the happiness I get from it. I'm a happy person. Nothing bothers me.”

Since the group started in mid-September, the number of members has grown to about a dozen, and the hope is to have between 25 and 30 by next summer. The group is especially in need of men, since all current members are women.

Performing for other seniors also is a goal for the future.

“We want to perform and provide uplifting entertainment for other community centers in the area and spread this joy to other seniors,” Smith said.

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