“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer, poet.
Goethe’s words sum up the focus on the arts, programs and activities that sets United Active Living’s communities apart from every other older adult community. Music is one such art form that can speak to us when words fail.
Jill LaForty, musician and former CBC producer, has set up a music appreciation program at United’s Garrison Green community to not only rediscover the classics, but to delve below the surface of the music to give residents the context and meaning behind the composition of the timeless pieces.
“The residents at Garrison Green asked for more classical music programming. They frequently attended concerts and wanted more in-depth understanding of the composers behind the music, ” said Jill. “But the beauty is that the program began to attract a number of other residents who aren’t as familiar with this music, but are totally enjoying it because they are all seeking to expand their horizons.”
“The group is introduced to the humanness behind the music,” said resident Ray Waldock. “Jill makes the music live for us. I like that level, where music touches all the senses and lifts the spirits. When you get a program like this one that invites you to step into the soul of the thing, that’s a godsend.”
An Innovative Way to Enjoy the Classics
One of Jill’s resources is YouTube, which she uses to add a visual component to the program. Watch Handel’s Water Music Suite No. 2 being performed on the BBC to see what we mean.
“My challenge each week is to present something that everyone can engage with and learn from. My goal for our hour together is to inform, uplift and entertain and I welcome their input and suggestions. We often pick a theme and a composer, and when possible link the program to what’s going on in the residents’ lives,” said Jill. “During the Calgary Stampede we heard a wide range of music from a Puccini opera that was set in the wild west (La Fanciulla del West), to a video of Roy Rogers singing ‘Happy Trails’.
As well, one week each month, Jill will organize a trip out to see a concert, and give them background to the music or the performers on the way to the concert.
Rich and Rewarding
“I thoroughly enjoy the program,” said resident Lil Tyler. “I call it food for the soul because I feel so good after it. It’s a great program that helps me appreciate the lives of the composers and performers.”
“It’s a love-in, really,” Jill chuckled. “We all love the music, and it’s touching to me that they choose to come to the program each week, to hear music they may not have heard before and to feel excited about learning something new.”
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