While many residents at Aegis Living Madison assisted living facility haven’t performed in a choir for years, they are getting a second chance of sharing their love for music and singing as members of a recently formed choir.
The choir formed three months ago at the behest of a resident who asked the activities director about starting one. Suzan Setel, the music therapist at Aegis, was up for the challenge and took on the task as choir director.
The choir, which is growing in popularity, meets for about an hour once a week, Setel said. At a practice in late November, the choir members sang and performed American Sign Language to “One Love” by Bob Marley, which Setel said is a particular favorite of theirs.
While singing is the objective, Setel said choir practice promotes many health benefits, adding they work on breathing, stretching, vocals and learning, as well as singing as part of a group.
“We must remember how good it is for our bodies,” she said, adding that singing is medically supportive: It lowers stress, and as stress goes down, inspiration and motivation go up. “Singing is very physical, even when it’s small movements from our mouths.”
Setel said, while the choir practices spiritual songs, including “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” it is not a religious choir, although many of the members have memories of singing in church when they were growing up.
Choir member Elaine Ethier said she has been singing her whole life and that music lifts her spirits.
“Singing is praying,” she said, adding it doesn’t matter if people don’t think they sing well. “I think all you need is hips and rhythm.”
Choir member Shirley Lillis said singing helped ease her grief after her father passed away.
“Music lifts your heart,” Lillis said. “It’s just a wonderful way to feel.”
All agreed they were grateful Aegis staff supported the idea of the choir and that Setel coordinated all the pieces.
“It’s something of value for all of us,” Ethier said. “I think that it’s a good thing that happened here.”