Music takes many highs and lows; it can be flat or sharp, quick or slow, melodious or piercing. For Gisele, music’s unique ability to spread joy is its most important quality, and something worth sharing.
“Everyone has a voice,” said Gisele, a 91-year-old resident at Red Oak Retirement Residence. “Once you hear somebody else next to you sing, you sing. You don’t have to know how to sing, it’s the truth!”
Music has always been a part of Gisele’s life. As a child, everyone in her family played something, and she, herself, took piano lessons. As she got older music was something she had to try and find time for, but was often left by the wayside. When she moved into Red Oak seven years ago, reconnecting with music was one of her goals — and she certainly accomplished it. On top of hosting a monthly concert and sing-along, she also curates movies in the residence’s home theatre four times a week.
“I didn’t think [the music] would come back, but it did,” Gisele said. “I’m very involved here, you know. I don’t stay put very much, which is great. It’s wonderful, I do a lot of volunteer work and I love it.”
Gisele’s most recent sing-alongs have paid a special tribute to the food and beverage team at Red Oak.
“I found out from the people in the kitchen that they have beautiful voices, you know? And I thought, why not mix them up with the residents and enjoy it?” Gisele said. “So they came up the first time, and they enjoyed it so thoroughly, and they were singing! And the chef said, ‘my goodness, I’ve never seen them so happy.’ So I thought, this is a good thing for them, to show them what they can do.”
“The staff were full of smiles and enthusiasm,” Jennifer Nason, lifestyle consultant at Red Oak, said about the sing-along.
Four servers sang solos at the sing-along, and at the end of the night Gisele invited everyone left in the kitchens up to sing ‘My Way’.
“I told the chef bring them all up, all the ones that are still here at this time, I said bring them all and we’ll all sing together. And we did that, and they seemed to enjoy it,” Gisele said. “They have talent.”
Along with organizing a time for the program and rehearsals, Gisele also put all the lyrical books together. When she moved in, she asked someone at the residence to help her type up songs and bind them together. The resulting five books, filled with nearly 600 songs, have been well used.
Gisele works to keep the sing-along informal and inviting, firmly believing that “if it’s too formal then people back off, they’re shy and no, it doesn’t work. But if you lead them with their own talent and their own thing then well, everybody seemed to enjoy.”
She keeps statistics on all of the programs she runs, particularly the movie nights, to help her make her programing better. She said about 20-25 people turn-up to the movies four nights a week. Depending on the location of the sing-along, she can pull-in anywhere from 25-50 people.
“I find I’m always surprised whenever I see 20-25 people. I say ‘oh, my goodness, I never thought they would come’. But they do, and they enjoy it,” Gisele said.