Andréa Roberts and Joan Bratty have organized the new Shuswap Intergenerational Choir open to youths from seven to 17 and those who are over 70 for the love of singing. -Image credit: Barb Brouwer

Finding joy in song

New choir intended to make connections between young and old

If you can talk, you can sing!

This is the premise on which three area women are creating the Shuswap Intergenerational Choir, a group designed to bring young and older members of the community together every week

This is not a professional choir and desire to sing is far more important than ability.

Led by Andréa Roberts, who is transitioning from the Children’s Choir, membership will be open to young folks between the ages of seven and 17 and the young at heart who are over 70.

In her book Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, Stacy Horn calls singing: “An infusion of the perfect tranquilizer – the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirit.”

“Group singing not only brings happiness but deeply connects people,” says Roberts.

“A lot of money is spent on trying to address loneliness, social isolation and anxiety,” adds Dr. Joan Bratty, noting that science has proven music benefits all of it.

Bratty asked Roberts if she was interested in leading a choir comprised of youths and seniors, including those in the local long-term residences.

“I invited Andréa because I knew she would be a great leader, has a lot of experience, used to sing in a nursing home, has experience with the Children’s Choir and, of course, she’s Mary Poppins,” laughs Bratty of Roberts’ role in last year’s Shuswap Theatre production.

In her nine-year career as a licensed practical nurse in extended care, Roberts saw first-hand how music has the power to lift the soul.

“Music is a universal language; it’s just so powerful, it’s medicinal and healing,” she says, noting she has already received enthusiastic emails from people who want to join.

“It is the easiest way to relax,” adds Bratty who sings with Roberts in the award-winning Ancora Women’s Ensemble. “I think we’re supposed to sing together.”

Family physician Barb McKinnon agrees.

When her child was in grade 2 and 3, teacher Ceren Caner, organized several student visits to Shuswap Lodge.

“It was just magical, so amazing what both sides learned from each other,” she says. “Interestingly, the children loved it and, at the end of year, the highlight wasn’t the water slides, field trips etc, it was going to the seniors’ home.”

McKinnon hopes conversations and connections will be made through the choir as well.

Bratty and McKinnon took their idea to the Shuswap North Okanagan Division of Family Practice, where executive director Tracey Kirkman was immediately supportive, asking the doctors to write a proposal.

Funding from the organization means the program will be offered free of charge.

Kirkman says the family practice was excited by the idea because they have seen the benefits of the music and memory program in place in some of the long-term care facilities.

“We were excited because of the benefit to seniors and the intergenerational aspect is proven to be a key component in aging well,” she said. “We also liked it because it is a collaboration.”

Youths do not have to be enrolled in the school district in order to participate and Bratty is hoping two or three students will show up with instruments to accompany the singers.

“Our goal is to have a concert in the spring that’s open to the community so the more the merrier as far as I am concerned,” she laughs. “The music will be popular, contemporary; we want to really draw the younger generation in.”

Roberts asks that choir members show up on Thursdays at 3:45 p.m. in order to be ready to sing right at 4.

The choir will begin on Thursday, Sept. 28 at Andover Terrace, 2110 Lakeshore Rd. NE, which has donated the space.

Anyone who is interested in joining, can find Shuswap Intergenerational Choir on Facebook or end an email to shuswapintergen@gmail.com.