In the Moment: Meet the Encore Chorale

Ideas for this column can come from unexpected encounters. This column was sparked over a dinner with some good friends a few nights ago. Let’s call them Rayna and Ed. We were at the neighborhood comfort New Zealand menu Cassatt’s in Arlington, chatting over some yummy food as the sun went down. They began to talk enthusiastically about their enjoyment of the performing arts; not just theater, but chorale singing. Chorale singing gave them an exciting opportunity to perform before audiences of like-minded folk and to meet new friends.

So with that as my entry, I looked into what my friends had brought to my attention: Encore Chorale. The dinner conversations and further research gave me a perception not unlike what I have when interviewing community theater people for preview articles before a production opens its run.

Courtesy of Encore Creativity for Older Adults
The Encore Chorale. Photo courtesy of Encore Creativity for Older Adults.

Encore began life about 15 years ago as a dream of Jeanne Kelly who has been long involved with music and teaching, including performances with the Washington Opera. As she explained it to me, the mission of Encore is “to provide an artistic environment for those 55 and over, regardless of experience or ability, who want not only a performing arts education but performance opportunities.” She also mentioned a deep connections to a research study about how cultural and performing arts programs can keep all of us well-functioning.

This column is based upon conversations with Jeanne Kelly, founding president and Executive Director of the Chorale, and Jennifer Heinz, spokesperson with Encore Creativity.

David Siegel: For those unfamiliar with Encore Chorale, please tell readers a bit about the organization?

Jeanne Kelly and Jennifer Heinz: Encore Chorale is the nation’s largest choral singing organization for adults age 55+ with more than 850 singers in 13 chorales in the Baltimore/Washington DC area and 5 affiliate chorales around the country. Encore Chorale members participate in 15 weekly rehearsals followed by performances at exciting venues such as the National Museum of the American Indian, Pascal Center for Performing Arts, and National Museum of the American Indian, Pascal Center for Performing Arts. In the coming weeks there will be many performances, including in the Northern Virginia area, at Fairfax’s Stacey C. Sherwood Center, Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School, and Alexandria’s Convergence.  More Encore performance information can be found on the website   

What do you seek in a potential member of Encore Chorale?

Jeanne Kelly and Jennifer Heinz: No prior choral singing experience is required….if you can talk, you can sing! Encore welcomes anyone interested in learning choral music or continuing a life-long passion.

What are Encore rehearsals like?

Jennifer Heinz: Rehearsals are held once a week for 1.5 hours. Rehearsals start with stretching, vocal exercises and other warmup, then the repertoire is rehearsed. Vocal technique and proper breathing is explained and emphasized.

What can audiences expect at the upcoming Combined Northern Virginia Concert at Washington-Lee High School on May 9, 2015?

Jennifer Heinz: We will have 150-175 singers on stage at the Northern Virginia Concert from 5 Northern Virginia chorales. The repertoire is “Broadway’s Best” and includes: “Come Follow the Band” from Barnum, a medley from Show Boat, a medley from Les Miserables, “Let’s Fall in Love” – A Tribute to Cole Porter and more. In addition, there will be an audience sing-along of favorites from Broadway and the American Songbook.

Courtesy of Encore Creativity for Older Adults
The Encore Chorale. Photo courtesy of Encore Creativity for Older Adults.

David Siegel: What do you want your chorale members to feel after a performance?

Jennifer Heinz: Our chorale members always leave a concert enthused and excited. We have large, appreciative audiences who love our music – and are often a bit surprised by the caliber of performance – and they show their appreciation for our singers.

Why are social connections, whether with the Encore Chorale or similar organizations, important?

Jennifer Heinz: Many of the Encore singers are retired and looking for opportunities to stay engaged and active. Encore offers social connection, mental and physical challenge and benefits, and exciting performance opportunities. Encore is routinely described as “an oasis in the week” by our singers who look forward to the music as well as seeing their friends at rehearsal. Many of our singers get together outside of rehearsals to practice the music, enjoy lunch out, or otherwise socialize. Some have found travel companions and attend our summer choral institutes or “Singing at Sea” excursions together.

David Siegel: Anything else you would like to provide readers?

Jennifer Heinz: Encore invites new singers to participate in our summer choral institutes at Washington College in Chestertown MD from June 14-18, 2015 and at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua NY from August 30-September 4 for a week of choral singing in beautiful surroundings with like-minded individuals. Our fall season starts September 8 and there will be 3 new chorales starting in Reston VA, Frederick MD and Columbia MD, in addition to our existing locations.

Here’s more information about Encore Chorale free concerts.

Note: For those who found this column of interest, here is information on the upcoming Northern Virginia Creative Aging Festival.


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