The Greater Reading Encore Chorale Story
The chorus, the brainchild of Louise Greenberg, provides adults 55 years old and older with an opportunity to learn about music and perform locally with other older adults.
Under the direction of professional musician David Rutt, the chorus performs at venues throughout Greater Reading, and in December 2013, traveled to Maryland to perform with two other Encore Chorales there.
Greenberg’s mission to start a local chorale was heavily influenced by Jeanne Kelly, who started Encore Creativity for Older adults.
A national choral program, Encore Creativity for Older Adults was founded based on the positive results of a national study designed to examine the long-term influence of active engagement in the arts on the overall health of seniors.
The study found that, after just a year, those regularly engaged in singing and other arts-related activities, under professional direction, were using less medication, had fewer doctors’ visits, had greater general activity levels and had improved breathing and stamina.
Determined to bring this same opportunity for improved quality of life to aging adults in Reading, and, in addition, further enrich the musical life of Berks County, Greenberg organized GREC.
Although not a professional musician, but rather a scientist with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and neuropharmacology, Greenberg has been a life-long volunteer and paid singer, choral administrator and board member. She has sung in many choruses in the Philadelphia area, including The Mendelssohn Club, The Choral Arts Society, which she founded, and the Philadelphia Singers Chorale, among others.
She also sings in the Symphonic Chorale of Southwest Florida. She served for 11 years on the board of directors of Chorus America, the North American service organization for independent professional, volunteer, children’s and symphony orchestra choruses.
“I am very excited by the prospect of combining my two careers, conducting research in gerontology and singing, by initiating an Encore Chorale in Reading. I hope I not only can slow down my own aging process by continuing to sing, but also slow down that process in other older adults by engaging them in singing in GREC,” Greenberg said.
GREC is a partner of Berks Encore, which serves senior citizens throughout Berks County, and is affiliated with Encore Creativity for Older Adults, a nonprofit organization that is the nation’s largest and fastest growing choral program for older adults.
Twenty other Encore Chorales and Encore ROCKS choruses, with over 1,000 singers, are in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Encore now has twelve Affiliate Programs in Ohio, California and Colorado, as well as Reading, all under the direction of professional musicians and choral conductors. GREC is no exception.
Professional vocal coach David Rutt teaches the singers fun and challenging four-part music during weekly instructive rehearsals.
Participants learn proper breathing techniques and how to improve their voices through correct tone production.
Rutt has spent 34 years in the Reading School District teaching music and directing the 200-voice Northeast Junior High School Chorus. He has also been music director of the Muhlenberg Community Singers, and currently is music director at Alsace Lutheran Church.
When asked to be music director of GREC, Rutt said, “I welcome the opportunity to be a part of GREC and work with a new group of singers. Through years of experience, my peers and I have observed that older adults who stay active, especially by singing, remain healthier and have greater mental awareness than those who are more sedentary, and Dr. Greenberg’s mission puts into motion the theory behind this. I am hopeful for a good turnout for such a positive endeavor.”
There is a $75 tuition fee to cover conductor and music costs for the semester, which will culminate in one or two free public performances in the Reading area at the end of each semester.