It’s either the power of social media or the enthusiasm of amateur singing enthusiasts, but when we put this simple question on our Facebook page recently – We at AJLI would like to know whether your Junior League has a choir/singing group – we were definitely surprised at the number of responses…and how quickly they were posted!
It turns out that singing groups are an important component of community outreach for many Leagues. Popular venues are nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers but also schools and occasionally League events. (Atlanta’s Pitch Pipes were even invited to sing the national anthem at a home game of the Atlanta Braves!)
While music therapy has been used for centuries as a way to restore energy, improve mood, and even help the body heal more naturally, the power of music on brain function has been the subject of several recent studies, with one finding that music can lower anxiety more than medication. And according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, when used appropriately, music can “shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements” for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients.
Music, then, is a win-win for both the singers themselves and their audiences. Here are other key findings from our impromptu Facebook survey:
Singing groups like fun names.
Baltimore has the Larks. So does Philadelphia! And so does Summit! Atlanta has the Peach Pipes! Lake Charles has the Liberty Belles. Minneapolis has the LeagueAires. Baton Rouge has the River Road Ramblers. Kansas City has The Noteables.
Many groups have been active for decades.
Cincinnati’s Junior League Choral Group is 50 years old. Minneapolis’ LeagueAires is its longest running service, and Musical Therapy is one of Dallas’ oldest placements. Raleigh’s Chorus dates back to at least the 1970s. The Lake Charles Liberty Belles was formed in 1976. Atlanta’s Peach Pipes has a five-decade-long history. Kansas City’s The Noteables and Milwaukee’s Junior League Singers were both founded in 1968.
Some singing groups like to dress up in funny costumes and play unusual instruments.
Members of Huntsville’s Rainbow Rhythm Band play old-timey music, wear brightly colored farmer’s overalls and play unusual instruments (think tambourines, spoons, cheese graters, and washboards). The Rainbow Rhythm Band was actually formed in 1981 after a visit by JLH members to hear Chattanooga’s Washboard Band (sometimes called the Bandana Babes). Both groups are still going strong!
Sustainers are the singers at many Junior Leagues.
Greenville’s Junior League Singers is open to Actives, but mostly Sustainers take part. Same with Raleigh’s Chorus. The Birmingham (Michigan) Chorus is all Sustainers. So is the Baton Rouge River Road Ramblers. The Lake Charles Liberty Belles was started in the late 1970s and later resurrected as a Sustainer group (though Actives can still join). After some 40 years of being a placement option for Actives, The Noteables of Kansas City was moved under the umbrella of the Sustainers council around 2008.
But, on the other hand, the members of Austin’s Playhouse Singers – formed in 1975 – are a group of some 30 Actives and Sustainers and valued by the League as a way to bring the two groups together on a regular basis.
And the fact that Mexico City’s JLMC Chorus is open to community volunteers has made it a great way to promote team work among Actives and Sustainers while attracting new Provisionals and promoting the League’s programs in the community. Summit’s Larks, composed of twenty Actives, Sustainers, and community members, takes a similar path.
Singing can be a long-term placement…
Several members of Kansas City’s The Noteables have been members for more than 20 years. There are members of the Milwaukee Junior League Singers who have been involved for more than 30 years – with one veteran showing up for 42 years.
The music creates emotional connections for everyone!
With a play list that ranges from Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy to New York, New York,Kansas City’s The Noteables tries to take the mostly elderly audience members back to their high school or college days.
Susie Heddens, who has been singing with the group for 19 years, says, “Oftentimes special moments happen, like a gentleman standing and saluting while we are singing his service song…or a member of the audience starting “Amazing Grace” and asking us to join in. The memory care units are some of our most treasured days. While half the people do not know their own names or their families, they always remember the words to our songs and join right in.”