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Friday, May 27, 2022

‘Spirit Song Radio’ is a ‘blessing’ for seniors at Woodbury

When they were young, Josie Schmer, Gloria Gaynor and Ruth Bunch gathered around the radio to listen to music and radio shows.

Decades later, women are doing it again — together, this time.

Schmer, 85, Gaynor, 96, and Bunch, 82, live in the Stonecrest senior-living community in Woodbury. Twice a month, they gather for “Spirit Song Radio,” an old-fashioned radio show featuring music, goofy jokes and moaning sentences along with singing.

“It’s been such a blessing to me,” said Schmer, who moved to Stonecrest in 2017. “It’s just so relaxing, and it helps you get in touch with the world. I love to sing. My sister and I used to sing. My parents used to sing. It’s great to have music on the radio. I love it.” Always have to listen.”

Spirit Song Radio is the brainchild of Spirit Song Choir, a worldwide and inter-generational community choir based in Woodbury. Choir president and music director Mary Riemann said the 85 members ranged in age from 8 to 84 and sing a “mix of sacred and secular music – music that lifts the soul”.

Riemann founded the choir in late 2019 to bring song and community to senior-living communities such as Stonecrest, St Therese Senior Living of Woodbury and Woodbury Senior Living.

“We were in a groove, learning new music, realizing there was a call for what we did and building relationships with three different senior communities,” Riemann said. “We were not only forming a choir, but we were, in fact, building this beautiful community.”

Then COVID hit and “everyone was feeling isolated and scared, and we realized that everything in life had changed,” she said.

New technology

A chance conversation with her sister inspired Riemann to explore a new technique—something Riemann typically detests, she said.

“She said, ‘Well, you should try Zoom,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know what Zoom is.’ It was March 2020,” Riemann said. “He explained this to me and said, ‘This is for meetings, but I wonder if you can figure out a way to rehearse using it.'”

Within a week, the Spirit Song Choir was almost gathering for its first Zoom rehearsal. The choir also began to lead virtual recitals on Facebook.

Members of the Spirit Song Choir in Woodbury meet to record their latest installment of “Spirit Song Radio” on Monday, May 9, 2022 via Zoom. The episode, “The 32nd Annual Flower Show”, will be broadcast to senior living communities in Woodbury and published online. (Courtesy of Soul Songs Choir)

But Riemann quickly realized that the choir’s main fan base, its seniors living in local high-living communities, was not on Facebook. “We were reaching out to other people that way, but not to this community,” she said.

It was Renee Vaughn, director of Life Promotion and Volunteer Services at Stonecrest, who suggested using a low-wattage FM transmitter to broadcast the choir’s renditions to residents.

“I found a low-powered FM transmitter in my basement and hooked it up,” Vaughan said. “We played bingo, and the transmitter had to be smack dub in the middle of the building[to reach everyone]. I had to call numbers from there, and then people would call on the phone saying ‘I got a Got Bingo!’ And then we would have the bus driver, who was not driving the bus at that time, we would have asked him to drive the candy bar to the people.”

Other Stonecrest broadcasts include: meditation sessions; story time; bird of the day; And “Sports Talk — aka, the Minnesota Vikings Emotional Support Group,” Vaughan said. “We had great courses, COVID updates etc all over the radio. Good time that I’m glad is over.”

a show is born

When members of the Spirit Song Choir arrived to see what they could do to help, Vaughan asked if they would record songs that she could play on the radio.

WSSR, or “Spirit Song Radio” was born.

“You can walk down the hallway covered in PPE covered head-to-toe, and you can hear people in their apartments listening to the radio, and you can hear a voice in the apartments singing loudly, but you can hear them in the background. You can listen to radio shows. playing,” said Vaughan. “It gave the sense, yes, we’re alone, but we’re not alone; we were all there together. That’s when I heard the music in the hallway again, a communal feel of music, that’s when I had my first sense of normalcy, ‘We’re going to get through this’ was my first feeling. Nothing can connect people the way music can.”

Residents of Stonecrest Senior Living Center sing along to the Spirit Songs radio show in which Darrell Butterwick, Top, Woodbury, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Residents of the Stonecrest Senior Living Center, in which Darrell Butterwick sings along to the Top, Spirit Songs radio show. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

Riemann said: “There’s something about the simple, human act of singing together. It’s healing and transformative.”

The members of the choir produce a new sing-along radio show every two weeks. He has written and recorded 31 so far.

Each episode begins with a theme—usually tied to an upcoming season or holiday—and a selection of songs to match. Songs included in the episode “Road Trip” aired at Stonecrest Tuesday: “On the Road Again,” “Country Road” and “This Land Is Your Land.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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