Something magical is happening with the Intergenerational Singers - and it’s not just the Disney tunes.
Young or old, music aficionado or amateur, everyone walks out of practice with a smile on their face, including choir conductor Ruth Storey.
Ruth has been leading the Intergenerational Singers for the past two-and-a-half years. The choir brings together students and adults living with dementia, as well as Langdon Villa residents, to sing together. They meet weekly to connect with music, memories and each other.
“The whole purpose of this is to reconnect memories through music, to have that interaction between the young and the older people … It’s a lot of fun,” says Ruth.
Ruth was an elementary school music teacher and church music director before she took on the role. To hit the ground running with the Intergenerational Singers, she took a weekend course that taught her about selecting music for people in long-term care facilities.
Ruth also learned in the course that music is our last memory to leave. She tries to pick songs that might help people with dementia connect with their past.
“You may not be able to find the words, but you can hum it, you can whistle it … I think it’s important to keep that music memory alive.”
At the Intergenerational Singers, it’s a message that goes far beyond academic theory.
Recently, while practicing Whistle While You Work with the choir, a participant with Alzheimer’s who had a hard time singing along was able to whistle incredibly for the group. A little boy stood up to join him; they’ll be whistling together at the concert.
“Little things like that make a really special moment,” Ruth says.
While Ruth lauds the physical, beneficial and mental benefits of the choir, she also knows that music simply makes people happy. It’s something all generations can relate to.
The choir has been growing in popularity over the past couple years. The current session - one of two each year - has 40 people, up from about 25 in the past.
Ruth says she has the organization team, which sets up binders with music for each participant, to thank for keeping things running so smoothly.
Although Ruth has been honoured to hold the conductor position, she’s considering stepping aside after this session. She wants others to have a chance to take up the helm.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a wonderful experience.”