Trillium Woods in Plymouth, MN, is a music lover’s paradise, with a schedule full of events featuring visiting artists and trips off campus to local concerts. But the premier lifecare community doesn’t just offer its residents ways to relish music as audience members — musically inclined seniors are encouraged to create music as performers in Trillium Woods’ bell and chime choirs, and its 35-member Chorale.
Led by professional choirmaster Robert Graham of VocalEssence, the Chorale gives lifelong singers and interested novices a way to express themselves through music.
“Our focus isn’t about being chosen to perform at Carnegie Hall,” explains Graham. “While the singers do sound great, it’s more about the process and positive experience of working together to make music.”
Studies have shown that seniors who continue to participate in the arts, including the performing arts, reap many physical and psychological rewards. “In addition to the cognitive and emotional benefits inherent to communal singing, we do breathing exercises at the start of every rehearsal to improve lung capacity,” says Graham.
Part of a Holistically Healthy Lifestyle
“Musical groups are just one example of the community’s many offerings that appeal to people with a wide range of interests,” explains Trillium Woods Executive Director Joe Amend-Marshall. “Our popular 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.”
In addition to having fun, participants in these activities enhance their overall health and happiness. Singing in the Chorale, for example, promotes intellectual wellness through lifelong learning, vocational wellness through honing old skills and acquiring new ones, social wellness by bringing people together, and emotional wellness because singing reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone.)
“Our holistic 8 Dimensions of Wellness programming fosters a fun, active lifestyle,” says Amend-Marshall. “A well-rounded plan for wellness is key to successful aging.”
Learn all about 8 Dimensions of Wellness and check out Trillium Woods’ activities calendar at https://www.trilliumwoodslcs.com/community-life/active-lifestyle/.
A Turn in the Spotlight
Many of the singers are very used to attending concerts, games, and other events as the parents and grandparents of the participants. The Trillium Chorale gives them a chance to reverse the roles and be supported by their kids and grandkids during their two annual concerts.
Chorale members rehearse weekly in the fall and spring in preparation for the two well-attended performances. “After concerts, family members often approach me to tell me how important the opportunity to keep singing has been for their moms and dads,” Graham explains. “Rehearsals are something that many residents look forward to and provides a positive anchor for the week. It’s not just about the music and the singing — it’s also about the camaraderie and satisfaction that you get as you work together.”
Graham chooses music that suits the senior voice. “As we age, some of us lose the ability to sing some of the highest and lowest notes, and it can be frustrating. It’s important to pick pieces well within the Chorale members’ vocal ranges. That’s not to say they’re only singing easy songs — the singers still enjoy a musical and intellectual challenge.”
Gratitude and Holiday Cheer
The group’s most recent concert — performed just before Thanksgiving — featured several songs about friendship and gratitude, as well as a collection of holiday classics. Pieces included “What a Wonderful World,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and the 10th-century Latin text “Ubi Caritas.”
In addition, the Chorale performed the world premiere of a song composed by one of its members, retired music teacher Dorothy Pryor. “All Around Us” celebrates the holiday season, friendship, peace, and the light-filled traditions of Hannukah and Christmas.
The concert opener, Greg Gilpin’s “Our Journey Continues,” features particularly fitting lyrics for the vibrant seniors with much to look forward to:
“It’s been a long road, and I’ve cried so many tears of happiness and sorrow
I’m so thankful you’ve been here
to share in all the music life has brought at every bend
and I pray the footprints that we leave
will guide another friend on this long road…
and I never in a million years thought I’d be standing here
looking forward to what lies ahead
our journey continues
you are with me
I am with you
and together, we move forward with all we’ve learned to guide our way
now our journey continues in the light of a brand-new day.”