By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Gramercy resident Loretta Marion rediscovered choral singing after her husband died almost a decade ago but has found community in a group of older adults who perform with a non-profit with origins in Annapolis that has organized in New York for the last couple of years.
The organization, called Encore, provides adults age 55 and over with singing opportunities, and the New York chapter began its new season at a new, local location for its fall season earlier this month. Encore Rocks, a rock & roll chorus that covers hits from the 50s to the 80s, and Encore Chorale, which is a choral group singing arrangements from classical and Broadway, both have a new home at Third Street Music School Settlement on East 11th Street.
Marion, 80, has lived on Third Avenue between East 18th and 19th Streets since she got married in 1968 and before that, lived in a studio apartment on East 22nd Street at Second Avenue.
“I’ve been in this neighborhood for a long time,” she said. This year, she will be a volunteer chorale master for Encore Chorale.
Marion has been participating with Encore since 2012 but at different locations outside the city, and started working on bringing the groups to New York because she was having trouble finding other chorale opportunities during the day rather than just in the evening. The groups ultimately started meeting in New York in 2017 and last year practiced at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 55th Street.
The Rocks group previously used space at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on the Upper West Side but Marion said that it made more sense to hold both at the church on Fifth Avenue. When both groups started looking for a new space for this season, Third Street made sense.
“A second soprano lived in that area and said she was taking lessons at Third Street and said it had been renovated so I went to check it out and was blown away because it was so different,” Marion said, noting that she hadn’t been to the school prior to the changes. “It has an elevator, which we really need because some people coming on walkers and canes, so that’s a big plus.”
Marion said that Encore hasn’t previously had a band accompanying the concerts but was hoping that might be something they can collaborate with Third Street on, especially because there’s also a band there with seniors.
Both Encore Chorale and Encore Rocks began on September 9 and meet every Monday for 15 weeks of rehearsals and instruction, culminating in a free concert that is open to the public.
Encore Chorale meets Mondays from 1:30 to 3 p.m., and Encore Rocks meets Mondays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuition for each program is $295 but scholarship opportunities are available. Third Street Music School Settlement is located at 235 East 11th Street.
Encore Creativity for Older Adults was founded in 2007 by Jeanne Kelly and has 23 ensembles throughout the country, in addition to summer camp programs and international travel opportunities.
“Aside from having a lot of fun, our singers are able to rekindle a former passion or discover a new one, bond with a new community of friends, and often fill a void in their later years,” Kelly said of the organization.
Marion said that she also feels that singing and specifically that participating in the group is beneficial to her health.
“For my age, I’m in pretty good health, and this is at least not hurting,” she said. “It’s nice to be in group activities so it kind of provides a community for people for seniors if they want that.”
For information and registration, visit encorecreativity.org/new-york-ny.