Salmon Arm residents find joy in singing together

Shuswap Intergenerational Choir an opportunity to make real-world connections

Barb Brouwer

Contributor

Oxford Dictionary defines joyful as “feeling, expressing, or causing great pleasure and happiness.”

It is a word members of the Shuswap Intergenerational Choir use to describe their experiences with the informal choir that meets weekly.

“It certainly has been such a source of joy to all the people who have joined, and after our year-end choir, people told us of the joy they had watching us perform,” says Barb McKinnon. “The reason I do it is because it is also joyful see the interaction between the generations, which is not as common as it used to be.”

McKinnon says that while people may be connecting on the Internet, it, and increasingly busy lives, can interfere with real connections and lead to loneliness.

She refers to an American study that found the effect of loneliness on health is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Emerging science indicates that loneliness might be more detrimental than obesity, she says.

“Britain has appointed a minister of loneliness,” she adds, noting loneliness can play a profound role in heart disease, depression, the immune system and lead to poorer recovery from cancer and other diseases.

As a physician, her prescription is to make real-life connections, such as joining the choir, which is fully supported by the Shuswap North Okanagan Division of Family Practice.

Read more: Generations connect through song

Read more: Finding joy in song

Read more: Choir music steadfast part of Shuswap culture

“Singing crosses every culture and used to be done much more frequently and informally,” she says, noting members are welcome whether they have no experience or are unable to read music. “I don’t describe myself as a singer, but I love it.”

McKinnon says much of the credit for the weekly injection of laughter and joy goes to choir director Andréa Roberts.

Elaine Dergoussoff agrees. She joined last fall with her then seven-year-old granddaughter, Quinn. Her husband, Jim, grudgingly agreed to attend one practice and has been going ever since.

“Once he experienced the joy of being in a choir with Andréa he decided to stay, and in November when we went away, Quinn got her mother to go, so we’re three generations and we can’t wait to start again,” she says. “I always feel so joyful after choir and the sense of joy stays through the weekend. I was struggling with a bit of depression and it really lifted me out of that.”

A professional music teacher, Roberts calls the intergenerational choir practice “a real feel-good time in the week.”

“After a standing ovation in the middle of our last concert, and rave reviews from our community, we’re excited to start again,” says Roberts on the choir’s Facebook page. “We have so many great experiences to look forward to this year. We laugh (a lot), we cry (a little), we sing. It’s all about learning from each other, and respecting the different generations.”

Practice resumes on Sept. 19 and takes place from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays at the Fifth Avenue Seniors Activity Centre.

There are no auditions and choir members should be between the ages of seven to 17, and 70 plus. Those between the ages of 18 to 69 who want to join, just need to take a “buddy” that falls within the above age groups.

Last year’s choir consisted of some 75 members and Roberts is hoping to attract more teens this year.


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