Few things are more important to our health and wellness than building and maintaining a sense of connection and community as we get older. This is especially true after the pandemic lockdowns caused significant rates of isolation and loneliness amongst seniors. Voices Rock Canada, a Toronto-based choir group, has been filling this role for many local seniors through the power of music.
Voices Rock Canada believes strongly in the power of connections for seniors and facilitates a tight-knit choir community open to everyone, whether you have been singing for years or are only just discovering your musical talents. Their Prime choir is targeted to seniors specifically and understands how challenging it can be to find genuine, empowering communities in today’s fast-paced world. Group numbers are tightly limited – this allows all members to get to know each other in a fun environment, and fosters a deeper sense of safety, support, and self-expression.
The choir’s impact on its members cannot be understated. Ron Russell, a retired letter carrier, has been singing with Voices Rock Canada since 2020. Prior to joining, Ron was also a professional entertainer. From ages 18-20, his performances took him across Canada and the eastern United States.”, we would like it to say: “Prior to joining, Ron was also a professional entertainer. From age 18, his performances took him across Canada and the eastern United States for 20 years
While Ron had only planned on listening, he was moved by the music and community he saw. Realizing how much he missed singing and performing, Ron signed up for the choir before heading home. Being part of the choir has been a joy and reignited his love of performance. “I love performing because of the feeling I get looking out at the audience and seeing their reactions,” said Ron. “I get an endorphin high from the adrenaline rush and knowing that I can still entertain.”
Since joining, Ron has enjoyed the choir’s emphasis on performing contemporary music over traditional choir songs. “My favorite moment was when we performed with the kids’ choir,” said Ron. “The look on their faces when we started to sing – it was astonishment that we old people could sing rock-and-roll tunes.”
The focus on community and music provided by the choir has also been a pillar of support for Ron as he navigated the COVID lockdowns and a cancer diagnosis. “During the COVID lockdowns, the choir literally saved me by giving me something to look forward to every week when I had to start another round of treatments for my cancer,” explained Ron.
The community found at Voices Rock Canada has given him the opportunity to thrive in a supportive and positive space. “When I am working on learning the songs for Prime and preparing for our concerts, I forget everything about my health problems by just immersing myself in the music,” Ron continued.
Being part of a group that meets weekly has provided Ron with a sense of stability, as well as giving him something to look forward to. “We have had some choir members come to our home on occasion. Our Christmas luncheon for the choir turned into a karaoke party that had everyone up singing, laughing, and dancing. It was a real feel-good time,” said Ron.
The choir community facilitated by Voices Rock Canada has yielded many benefits for Ron’s mental health. When asked how the community has helped him, Ron chalked it up to the entire process. “Learning words and harmonies to the new songs gives me a sense of purpose. I enjoy the laughter along with singing at the rehearsals. There is always homework and learning to be done for our part,” explained Ron. “Today we can have our music on our phones, so it’s with us at the gym, on the treadmill or in the car while driving to Florida, as we are currently doing.”
When asked what he would tell seniors who feel isolated or like their “best years” are behind them, Ron’s advice was simple. “I’d tell them, ‘You’re not dead yet!’ Get out there and find like-minded people, who have the same hobbies and passions that you do. Start living life to the fullest.”
Looking ahead to the new year, Ron is excited for the choir’s song list for the new season and performing in their spring concert, taking place at the Jane Mallett Theatre in downtown Toronto this May.
Through the choir, Voices Rock Canada hopes to provide seniors with something different, uniquely challenging, and personal to look forward to as part of their routine. Ron is one of the many members who demonstrate courage, strength, and immense joy as they take the stage.
Want to be part of the Voices Rock Prime magic?
Voices Rock Canada is recruiting for seniors and retirees to join their daytime choir this winter semester, running from February – May 2023. Rehearsals take place in Mississauga every Wednesday from 11:30am – 12:45pm, culminating in a rock concert at the Jane Mallett Theatre. To learn more, visit https://www.voicesrockcanada.com/january-promo