"The Beauty of the Sound"

The audience wins when this intergenerational ensemble of singers comes together.
by Erika Spaet '09

Ruth Davis had a habit she just couldn’t break. The 87-year-old resident of Longview senior living community just couldn’t stop singing. Down the stairs, in the shower, and through the halls—it didn’t matter where she was when she got that itch to vocalize.

“So I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to join a choir,’” she says.

So she did. Davis joins in with the toe tapping, finger snapping, and magnificent singing of the Intergenerational Choir, which can be heard each Tuesday night during the school year rehearsing in Longview’s auditorium. More than 25 residents and 25 students come together to make great music and, not incidentally, have fun.

“I needed something to give me a little life and a little enjoyment,” says choir member Lena Burdin, 86. “I just love music.” The group was started in 1992 by former IC assistant professor Nancy Riley and continued through the community service of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a society dedicated to cultivating musicianship. What used to be a relatively small choir has grown into a thriving ensemble, currently under the shared conductorship of assistant professor of music education Jennifer Haywood and Dana intern Brandon Coon ’07. Sometimes more than 60 singers join the group for a rehearsal, but it’s the virtuosity, not the size, of the ensemble that has the community’s ears perked.   

“With only an hour [of rehearsal] a week, we’re still able to do so much,” says Haywood. “Many [audience members] have commented on the beauty of the sound.”

The choir’s efforts culminate in two concerts each semester, one in the Hockett Family Recital Hall in the Whalen Center and one at Longview. In the fun-loving spirit of the choir, audience members are encouraged to join in. “Singing is very accessible; anybody can sing,” says Coon. “No one knows what it is about music that brings people together, but that’s why we do it. It’s a shared link that connects people.”

The Longview residents, of course, have been singing since long before the students were born. Most students have never heard the song “Hello, Young Lovers,” but the residents know it by heart. Haywood and Coon keep this in mind when selecting pieces for rehearsal and for sing-alongs.

“Older people want to have a little music you can take home with you to sing to yourself,” says Burdin. “It’s fun to be musical.”

And for these songsters, that’s the point. “There’s a lot of learning and interacting, but what it really boils down to is that it’s a lot of fun,” says Coon.

The irrepressible Davis agrees: “It gives people who love music something to look forward to.” And as long as she’s a part of the choir, she plans never to kick her habit.