A senior woman looks at her sheet music while holding hand bells, working as part of the Trillium Bells group

Trillium Woods Brings Community Members Together With Music

With a schedule full of events featuring visiting artists, resident musical group rehearsals and performance opportunities, and trips off campus to local concerts, Trillium Woods offers seniors ample opportunity to savor music as audience members — and create music of their own as performers. One notable example is the Trillium Woods Chorale, whose 35 members recently performed on the same bill as the renowned VocalEssence ensembles in U of M’s Northup Auditorium. On the less formal end of the spectrum, several residents have started their own tradition of kicking off each day with a rousing sing-along of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” in the senior living community’s café with any and all who stop by — regardless of prior singing experience.
Likewise, lifelong musicians and interested novices with no training whatsoever have both found a welcoming home in Trillium Woods’ bell and chime choirs.

Currently, more than 20 residents of the senior living community in Plymouth, MN., practice on a weekly basis as part of the Trillium Chimers or Trillium Bells group. Many people are even part of both groups!

“We started as a group of six three years ago,” says Becky McAlpine, the resident who founded and now directs both groups. “But we’ve grown to become two two-octave choirs with 16 members in each group”

Normally, a two-octave choir would only have 8 members, but the parts are shared by multiple members. Many residents at Trillium Woods spend their summers at their lake homes while others head to warmer climes in the winter so this system works well and allows more people to participate.

Over time, the choirs’ skill levels have increased, as well. At first, pieces were limited to slower, less intricate songs, like “Simple Gifts” or “Amazing Grace.” With time, patience, and practice, they are now able to go beyond whole, half, and quarter notes and can tackle the eighth and sixteenth notes found in favorites like “If I Were a Rich Man.”

McAlpine, who comes from a very musical family, spent 40 years leading her church’s bell and chime choir before she moved to Trillium Woods. That group often performed public concerts and at other churches, even traveling to Germany, Australia, and Austria to share their music. “Music is universal,” she says. “When we visited places that didn’t speak English, we shared our bells and taught them to ring them when we said a particular word. It worked well.”

Currently, Trillium Woods choirs have only performed within the community — most recently giving an hour-long concert at the holidays. Sometimes they visit residents of Trillium Woods’ memory care neighborhood. “They enjoy the bells so much when we perform for them, but they can also participate — when we hold up a number, they ring their own bell,” says McAlpine. “It brings such happiness to them to be able to make music and of course, it’s joyful for us, as well.”

McAlpine believes that music fosters connections between people, and is also an active member of the community’s vocal choir.

“I encourage my neighbors to try the bells, even if they don’t have any musical training,” says McAlpine. “It’s a wonderful way to meet people and share experiences. I hope we continue to grow beyond two-octave choirs. A three-octave choir can play even more expressive music and involve more people, too.”

Musical groups are just one example of the community’s many offerings that appeal to people with a wide a range of interests. Book clubs, game groups, writers circles, and arts and crafts groups all welcome new members and drop-ins regardless of previous experience, allowing residents to continue lifelong passions or discover new interests. Learn all about Trillium Woods’ active lifestyle at https://trilliumwoodslcs.net/BellsAndChimes.