Not too long ago, when activities and socializing were not only fun, they were legal, I went to an extremely delightful hippie type concert here at Summerset.
I am not complaining, since I feel very fortunate to be safe. Those memories of life before COVID are sweet and keep me focused on returning to some kind of normalcy really soon. At least that is how my Pollyanna attitude chooses to feel.
It was a pleasant surprise to see an announcement in the lobby of our clubhouse of “Woodstock by the Summerset Singers.” Although Grandpa is more Elvis and Doo Wop, he agreed it would be a lot of fun to join me. The room was filled with folks who also decided to enjoy a trip down memory lane and you can imagine my surprise when my friend, Barbara, showed up in her hippie wig and garb! There was a large wooden V.W. bus with flowers and peace signs, which you could take pictures behind, and the atmosphere was that of the 1960s. I was in my glory, singing along as quietly as possible to every song they sang.
The Summerset Singers, lead by director Susan Stuteville, have not let the coronavirus quiet their voices and recently held a virtual chorus to entertain the masses. During the many months of researching how to make it happen, Stuteville decided it was necessary for many reasons. She wanted, in some way, to preserve another precious keepsake of the group. When she reached out for advice and help, some told her they were too old and inexperienced — not tech savvy enough or it was just too much work. That made the challenge even more irresistible to Diane Brand, the assistant director who encouraged Stuteville to continue plotting away and doing more interviews. She was not about to give up on the idea and finally found a person in Los Angeles. Melissa Brand from Dear Fox Films was also affected by the pandemic. Brand, a wedding photographer heard Stuteville’s story and offered to help free of charge. But when they found out Brand’s business was extremely slow, each member chipped in a small amount to pay her for her time and kindness. They all acknowledged this was a total win-win!
The group of 33 male and female seniors, all residing in the various Summersets here in Brentwood consists of an average age of 78 with the oldest being 88. They have been together with very little fallout for over 21 years and have remained loyal and consistent, says Stuteville. One member says it’s like the best therapy you can get, from the rehearsals through the performance. Having lost her husband several years ago, the group gives her peace through the music and camaraderie, making all the loneliness seem to dissipate during the time she sings with the group. For an hour and a half of rehearsals, she is carefree and in her happy place, and that in itself is worth every moment.
The song, Hallelujah, took approximately six weeks to coordinate since they could not rehearse together. With lots of hard work, the challenge became surmountable. Not used to singing by themselves, each person had to be independent and yet remember they were singing in a group. They had to mesmerize notes, words and music as well as learn to record themselves while listening to two separate devices. Who says seniors can’t be technical? Not only was this fun, it was good for the brain and for keeping them young at heart.
With Christmas not all that far off, the group has started a new song called Believe, made famous by Josh Groban for the movie “Polar Express.” It will come out right after Thanksgiving and will be available on YouTube under Summerset Singers Brentwood.
New members are always welcome, and no audition is needed. Only two criteria: enjoy singing and be a resident of one of the four local Summersets. When it is safe, rehearsals all together will resume each Monday, at 7 p.m. Until then, it’s that impossible, yet very possible, virtual chorus! For more information, please contact Susan Stuteville at 925-864-0410. We all need to be in a happy place at this time. Stay safe and well.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at email@example.com.