Although Chautauqua Institution’s official season may be ending, music still lingers on the grounds.
Beginning this week, Encore Creativity for Older Adults will hold its 12th Annual Summer Institute at Chautauqua Institution, and host three free concerts throughout the week in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.
Encore is a nationwide program for adults 55 years and older who have taken an interest in performing vocal music. It was founded by Jeanne Kelly, who is also the artistic director of the organization, after she worked on a study on creativity and aging — specifically the effects of singing under a professional conductor on the health of older adults.
The results found that over the year-long course of the study, the participants had taken fewer medications, suffered fewer falls, had fewer hospital visits, had less need of long-term medical care and were in overall better mental health.
“It was a great success, and … through that, I thought that older adults were not getting the music programs that they needed, so I decided to start Encore,” Kelly said.
Since then, Encore has established several groups, of two types, throughout the country: Encore Chorale, which performs mostly traditional vocal repertoire, and Encore ROCKS, which performs rock ’n’ roll music. The group coming to Chautauqua is an Encore Chorale.
As part of their week here, Encore will host three concerts. The first, at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Lenna Hall, is a show by percussionist Tom Teasley, who has traveled around the globe as a cultural envoy of the state department and incorporates elements of the musical traditions he encounters into his own compositions and performances.
“A lot of these traditions that I borrow from, be it India, Africa, the Middle East or South America, a lot of these drumming traditions are very ancient, so the other thing that I do is I combine that with some digital electronics,” Teasley said. “That brings some of the ancient pieces and elements in kind of a contemporary way, and grounds the contemporary technology in something that is ancient.”
Teasley’s show will include a lot of what he called “structured improvisation.” Since his music is also largely informed by American jazz, he is able to take his performances in many different directions and compose on the spot. He will also be joined for several songs by his wife, Linda Teasley, who will sing a few traditional folk songs, and one of his students in the Encore Chorale, Kathleen Leatherwood.
“I’m always interested in sharing my work with a new audience, … and kind of spreading the word that people are really, really much more similar than they are different,” Teasley said. “A great way to experience that in a tangential way is through their music.”
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, also in Lenna, the second of the free concerts will feature professional vocalists soprano Amy Broadbent and tenor Matthew Hill, and a program featuring a variety of pieces from Broadway musicals, operas, German songs, popular tunes and more.
“I think it’s very exciting to sing something for a person that they’ve never heard before, or even something that they have heard before, but you might sing it in a way that they hear it in a new way,” Broadbent said.
Often when performing, Broadbent keeps in mind what a conductor she worked with once told her: For every piece, there might be someone in the audience who is hearing it for the first time in their life, and there might be someone hearing it for the last time in their life.
Though Broadbent and Hill are married, they do not often get the chance to perform together, so this concert is a special one for them.
“Because we’re both professional singers that generally don’t sing together, it’s just nice to do something that is (our) job, together,” Hill said.
Finally, the week wraps up with a vocal performance by the Encore Chorale at 2 p.m. Friday in Lenna. In culmination of the week’s rehearsals, the group will sing seven pieces — including a German lied by Franz Schubert, a Latin liturgical hymn, and a Nat King Cole medley.
“I always choose pieces that the singers are going to be challenged (by) and learn something (from),” Kelly said.
The concert is intended to be a celebration of great choral music by performers 55 and older, including some in their 90s.
“People should be able to sing for a lifetime,” Kelly said. “And in Encore, they do.”