Thanks to a group of seniors, the sweet sound of music is often ringing through the Viva retirement residence in Barrhaven.
Micheline Lortie, a resident in the home, has put together a choir. The Barrhaven Viva Golden Voices practice, they have uniforms, and last month, they sang their hearts out for fellow residents, family and visitors in a jam-packed dining room in the home.
“We have singers that come in to perform for us, and I was inspired,” she said.
Lortie has choir experience. For 20 years, she performed in concerts to raise money for the food bank.
“There was a need here,” she said of the choir. “We needed to have more joy. The people here have something to tell us. Just because you’re 90 doesn’t mean you can’t do anything anymore.”
Lortie put the word out to her fellow residents looking for anyone interested in singing and forming a choir.
“I thought maybe we would have five or six, but they recruited each other,” she said. “By Christmas we had 15, and now we have 22. And we have people who are moving in here, and they are saying, ‘I’m going to go in the choir.’ So it just blossomed.”
The performance by the choir was their second. They did a Christmas show in December, and have been preparing for their June performance for the past few months. They sang popular songs from years gone by like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ and ‘Que Sera Sera’. They had a pianist and an accordion player with them, and they even had some soloists.
Kathleen Stewart, 98, is originally from Yorkshire in the UK. She sang in the Salvation Army Choir for several years and also sang in school choirs growing up.
“I’m not a singer,” she said, smiling. “I thought it was going to be a sing along every week, but then I found out it was going to be a choir. With Micheline’s help, I am a better singer.”
Stewart says the choir practices are something she looks forward to.
“It’s a lovely atmosphere,” she said. “We sing along and enjoy each other’s company and Micheline’s encouragement.”
Hartland Mulcahy is the most senior member of the choir. He is a 99-year-old World War II veteran who will celebrate his 100th birthday November 19. He was involved in two invasions, as he was involved in the North Africa and D-Day, as well as the Battle of the Atlantic.
“When I was a kid, going to school, we used to sing in chapel,” he recalled of his childhood in Montreal. “I was raised Catholic, and we used to sing hymns on Sunday nights as well.”
Like the other choir members, Mulcahy looks forward to each practice.
“We practice every two weeks, but we should practice more often,” he said. “It’s fun.”
David Burden is a 76-year-old who was born in Argentina and grew up in England before making his way to Canada and Barrhaven.
“I always said that if I sang, it’s the best way I know of clearing a room,” he said, laughing. “Micheline is a force of nature. She persuaded me to join the choir. I surprisingly did not put everyone off. I was not too bad. I’ve enjoyed the last three or four months in the choir.”
The performance at Viva marked the first time in Burden’s life that he had ever sung publicly.
“It was fun,” he said. “When we first started it was a very meek and mild choir. But as we got closer to the day of the performance, there were incredible noises coming from this choir. They really did a great job.”
Burden said the choir is about a lot more than music.
“A lot of people here are in their declining years,” he said. “They didn’t have a lot of interest in life. But when they came to the choir, it gave them a new lease on life and a reason to be.”
Ann Cross joined the choir after the first concert and has enjoyed it a great deal.
“I don’t sing that great but Micheline says I sing fine,” Cross said. “She welcomes everybody and together we’re not too bad.”
Cross said that the choir is more than a sing along with friends.
“It feeds the soul when we’re singing,” she said. “We’re happy when we sing. It’s very uplifting.”
Lortie was asked if she had considered putting her choir on a bigger stage like Canada’s Got Talent or even America’s Got Talent.
“Oh I don’t know about that,” she said. “Being on television would be a lot of work for us.”
Featured Image: The Viva Golden Voices performed at their retirement home in Barrhaven last month. (Reegan Belanger photo)