BY GABE HERMAN | A singing group for older adults is set to wrap up its first season in the East Village with a free concert on Wednesday, Dec. 18.
The 7:30 p.m. performance at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, at 131 E. 10 St., will last about an hour and be split between two groups from Encore Creativity, a choral organization for adults over 55.
Encore Chorale is a choral group that will sing a variety of more traditional music, including Beethoven, spirituals and folk music. The other half of the show will feature Encore Rocks, a rock & roll chorus that performs more contemporary tunes.
The Encore Creativity organization was founded in 2007 and is based in Annapolis, MD, but has held programs in Manhattan for the past couple of years. This fall was the first time at Third Street Music School Settlement, at 235 E. 11 St. in the East Village.
There is no audition required to be part of the groups, which include 15 weeks of rehearsals and have been led this season by conductor Bernadette Hoke.
Despite the range of experience in the groups, there are some challenging aspects to singing, like harmonies, sight reading and vocal techniques. But the mood at a recent rehearsal was decidedly one of fun and good cheer.
“I love it,” said Hoke after a recent rehearsal in the East Village. “We’re all fortunately on the same page, so I’m having a great time.”
Hoke said she approaches training the singers as if they were professionals that she works with. “You have to go for the highest standard,” she said, and added that everyone in the groups takes it seriously. “Everybody has really done their homework,” she said.
The choral group has about 30 people, including just two men, and the rock group is all-women, and participants include retirees, widows and a range of ages over 55. The groups rehearse on Monday afternoons, and tuition is $295.
Studies have shown singing to have physical and mental health benefits, and the singers say it gives a sense of community.
“I think people help each other,” said Jonathan Parker, who lives on East 9 Street and is a returning participant in the program. “There’s no sense of trying to get people out, quite the opposite. So to me, it’s an empowering, safe space.”
Parker added about the health aspect, “For older people there’s isolation sometimes, but learning to read new music, training the brain to do something new, that’s really stimulating.”
Others in the group are also returning from past seasons, including Loretta Marion, who lives on 18th Street and has also performed with the group in Ireland, and noted other opportunities the group offers like performing at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She said Encore is also looking to start a group for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Another singer, Anne Boster, is retired and lives on East 4th Street. She said her last time singing was as a teenager in church, and that the people in the group are nice and don’t criticize mistakes.
“I was so glad to find something during the day,” Boster said. “There’s nothing in the East Village for seniors like me, and I’m sure they would come out of the woodwork.”
More information about the program can be found at https://www.encorecreativity.org/new-york-ny.