Caregiving

Join a Chorale Group in Retirement to Boost Your Spirits

Retirees can create, bond and entertain in a song-filled setting featuring professional conductors.

Marge Lynch, 78, of Bridgeville, Del., is so devoted to her chorale group that she makes a weekly trek to Annapolis, Md.—an hour and 20 minute drive each way—to participate. The singing group saved her life, she says. When her husband, Brendan, died in 2015 after a cancer battle, she grieved for a year, and “everything dried up and I couldn’t sing.” But rejoining the chorus helped her “feel joy again.”

Lynch is part of the Encore Creativity for Older Adults chorale program, the nation’s largest chorale. The Encore chorale program, which is for retirees 55 and older, started in 2007 and has grown to about 2,000 singers. The largest number of Encore chorales are in the Washington, D.C.–Baltimore region, and the newest chorale is in New York City. There are affiliates in five other cities—Chicago; Denver; Hudson, Ohio; Reading, Pa.; and Santa Clarita, Calif. Participants range in age from their fifties to nineties.

The nonprofit also runs seven Encore ROCKS, which are rock and roll choruses in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New York City, as well as five-day summer institutes fashioned as adult singing sleepaway camps, in Maryland and New York.

Encore is the brainchild of founder and artistic director Jeanne Kelly, who is a conductor, former opera soloist and voice teacher. In 2001, Kelly led the chorale portion of a three-year study by George Washington University and the National Endowment for the Arts. The study, which examined creativity and aging in 150 singers with an average age of 72, found that singers who took part in professionally led choruses had fewer doctor and hospital visits, took fewer medications, had fewer falls, and experienced higher morale and less depression than the control group. The findings inspired Kelly to start Encore in the Washington, D.C., area.

The Encore program teaches singers proper breathing and posture, and participants continually work on improving vocal technique. “We attract singers who have sung their entire lives and some who have not sung for 20, 30 or 40 years,” Kelly says.

Aside from professional conductors, who are paid from tuition fees, what sets Encore apart is the lack of auditions. The singers learn to read music instead of working off song sheets. And the repertoire is varied, from Broadway songs to spirituals. Encore ROCKS selections cover rock music from the 1950s to the 1990s. All Encore programs rehearse the same songs, so they can join forces in their local area for a concert held at the end of each 15-week session.

“I love the role reversal of kids and grandkids coming to cheer on the older people,” says Jonathan Miller, artistic director and chief executive officer of the Chicago Encore Affiliate Program. He oversees seven choruses and ROCKS, with more than 300 participants, including his mother, 82, who is in two groups.

Social Side of Singing

Encore also provides a place for social interactions. For example, Jerry Catron, 82, of Manassas, Va., a retired naval officer and home builder, joined four years ago, and he participates in both chorale and ROCKS. His wife died two years ago. “It’s a good support group and helped me transition to being single. And it’s cheaper than hiring a shrink,” he says. His rock chorus recently sang a medley of Woodstock songs. “I’m a Vietnam vet and those protesters at Woodstock were protesting me. But the lyrics have fantastic meanings, about love and peace.”

Brian Leatherman, who co-founded the Denver Affiliate Program in 2015, which now numbers 180 people, notes that “people embrace each other and dear friendships are established.”

That bonding occurs even when singing is the only common denominator, says conductor Justin Jalea, who leads the New York City programs, which began last March. “I’m seeing a lot of diversity in people’s backgrounds,” he says. But their shared goal is to “make wonderful music together.”

Most Popular

How to Use Your Estate Plan to Save on Taxes While You’re Still Alive!
estate planning

How to Use Your Estate Plan to Save on Taxes While You’re Still Alive!

Upstream basis planning is a trust strategy that can save wealthy people on their capital gains taxes and income taxes associated with highly apprecia…
July 3, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
5 Ways to Prepare for a Recession
recession

5 Ways to Prepare for a Recession

The signs seem to be pointing in one direction these days, so if you’re worried about being ready for a recession, consider taking these five measures…
June 28, 2022

Recommended

Age Magnificently with the Help of a Geriatric Care Manager
retirement

Age Magnificently with the Help of a Geriatric Care Manager

Geriatric care managers help families map the coming changes and explore the options before they are even needed.
July 5, 2022
How 13 Types of Retirement Income Get Taxed
retirement

How 13 Types of Retirement Income Get Taxed

When you're planning for retirement, it's fun to contemplate all the travel and rounds of golf ahead of you, but don't forget about taxes.
June 30, 2022
33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes
retirement

33 States with No Estate Taxes or Inheritance Taxes

Even with the federal exemption from death taxes raised, retirees should pay more attention to estate taxes and inheritance taxes levied by states.
June 23, 2022
10 Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirees
retirement

10 Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirees

Moving to a low-tax state in retirement can help make your retirement savings last longer.
June 23, 2022