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  • Melissa Trier Kirk, viola

Zooming out to Seniors

While our theater has been shuttered for a year, orchestra members have sought creative ways to continue performing and connecting to our world through music. Starting in August, many of us joined forces with the Lyric Opera Stage Artists (LOSA) chorus members to bring concerts to seniors.

“It’s like inviting folks into your living room for a musical party,” explained Pam Williams (mezzo), longtime member of LOSA and the organizational and spiritual force behind this outreach initiative.

Pam began the Zoom concerts for three facilities in May and over the months it’s grown to include seven venues with ten performances per month. That means concerts for hundreds of seniors monthly.

“Our residents are so isolated,” said Tammy Potts, Social Director at The Merion, a senior living community in Evanston that is part of the series. “The concerts make them feel better and give them something to look forward to. Music soothes the soul. I can’t explain how grateful I am for you guys.”

A typical concert is a vibrant mix of songs by our chorus members and instrumental music by our orchestra members. A concert might begin with violinist Heather Wittels performing a Paganini Caprice and end with baritone Nick Ward singing “No One is Alone” from Sondheim’s Into the Woods with a great mix in between. You never know what you’re going to hear, but it’s always festive and familial, fun for performer and audience alike. Playing these concerts has been a rewarding way to keep in shape and learn new repertoire while bringing music to seniors trapped inside by the pandemic. Many of us perform weekly, a different venue each week.

Fern Shaffer, Director of Programs for the SelfHelp Home in Chicago also appreciates the Zoom concerts. “My residents love live music, but we can’t gather. People are eating alone in their rooms. The virtual concerts have been a wonderful gift. The residents love the variety. They look forward to the concerts.”

Our deep gratitude to Pam and to caregivers like Tammy and Fern who stream the concerts directly into residents’ rooms.

From upper left: Heather Wittels (violin); Nick Ward (baritone); Frank (viola) and Cornelia (cello) Babbitt; Ken Donovan (tenor); Judi Lewis (oboe) and brother Alan Zunamon (piano); and Pam Williams (mezzo), singing Brady Bunch style.

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