Need a break from all the holiday shopping and wrapping? The Asbury Methodist Village chapter of Encore Chorale, a singing group for adults 55 years or older, will be presenting their free annual holiday choral concert at 3 p.m. on Dec. 3.
Opening with “And the Glory of the Lord” from Handel’s “Messiah,” folks can expect to hear a challenging repertoire of sacred and secular pieces, including an Irving Berlin Christmas medley. Folks in the audience may also join in on the fun by participating in a sing-along with the group on songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Deck the Halls,” “Dreidel Song” and “The Christmas Song.”
There are around 45 members in the Asbury chapter who will be joined on stage with members from Frederick’s group. The two will perform the same concert again in Frederick on Dec. 17.
Encore was formed by Jeanne Kelly in 2007 after she was asked to be a part of a 2001 creativity and aging study by the National Endowment for the Arts. The study focused on the health benefits of singing in a choral setting under a professional conductor. Some 150 individuals were interviewed before and after a nine-month choral commitment. The study found individuals had fewer doctor visits, hospital visits and falls, less demand for long term health care, higher morale, and less depression.
Today, Encore has 15 Chorale and five Encore ROCKS! groups in the DC metro region and several affiliates across the country. “I think it was very appealing to our singers that they were going to be treated like they were treated in their high school and college choirs,” Kelly said. “They were going to be challenged. They were going to be able to sing great repertoire, and they were going to be respected, and we were going to present them in high-profile concert venues.”
Some of their venues include The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College. Singers do not need to have any experience to participate and there is no audition prior to joining. Individuals are allowed to sit during performances if they have trouble standing for long periods of time. “They just have to love to sing, have a passion and bring their energy,” Kelly said. “They have to want to come and learn and laugh. … Every day I go into a rehearsal and I see these people being fulfilled through their singing. They can come with a myriad of problems. They can have a sick spouse. Some of them have failing health themselves, or they are 55 and they just retired and they want to try something and just to come in and see them dive into it and fall in love with it is so much fun to watch.”
Formed in 2013, the Asbury chapter is led by conductor Bob Johnson who first heard about the group while directing the NIH community chorus. “Most of my singers come because they are having a good time at rehearsal and I try really hard to make it a good time as opposed to the martinets that want (you) to do it exactly my way,” he said. “We are there to work together. … Singing is a good activity for everybody but especially for oldsters because as you get old you tend to not breathe as deeply and you tend not to exercise and singing is both of those things. In order to be able to sing more than two or three notes at a time, you have to breathe deeply and get some air in there.”
With around a thousand total members, the nonprofit will be celebrating 10 years of bringing music to the region next year. “It’s thrilling, and it is going to be a great legacy to leave,” Kelly said. “It has definitely proven that a top-notch arts program such as Encore is badly needed and we are delivering in the Washington/Baltimore area. It is needed all across the country. Long gone are the days where you can just do sing-alongs. We sing great repertoire. The singers are psyched. They really enjoy the social aspect of this whole (group) too.”