Seniors' choirs in harmony on hope, happiness

Singing groups help members alleviate loneliness, improve cognitive capacity

By CHEN NAN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-06-13 07:06
Share - WeChat
Members of the Beijing Health Voice Choir perform at Zizhuyuan Park in Beijing on May 22. ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY

At 8:30 am on May 22, a group of seniors wearing colorful clothes began gathering at a small pavilion in Beijing's Zizhuyuan Park, a scenic spot with lakes, pavilions and clusters of bamboo.

They greeted and chatted with one another, took songbooks from their bags, drank water and cleared their throats.

At 9 am, amid the tranquil surroundings and shaded pathways, they formed circles in preparation for their performance.

Yan Lanying, a retired waitress in her early 60s, picked up a microphone and announced the start of the performance, and the conductor, Li Yongkang, standing on a stone step, waved his baton.

The seniors, who are members of the Beijing Health Voice Choir, performed more than 20 songs in two hours, attracting the attention of passersby, some of whom joined in the singing. At the end of each song, the choir members and spectators warmly applauded.

"Lots of senior citizens gather together to perform choral singing and we have developed a number of choir branches across the country, attracting over 10,000 people who are mostly above 60 years," said Li, the 67-year-old founder and leader of the Beijing Health Voice Choir.

Every week, Li and the choir perform at three locations in Beijing — Zizhuyuan Park, Madian Park near the North Third Ring Road, and Wangjing Cultural Square in the city's east. The choir has also traveled to other cities including Xi'an, Shaanxi province, and Pingyao, Shanxi province, to join in performances with other seniors' choirs.


Li Yongkang conducts the Beijing Health Voice Choir in Beijing on May 22. ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY

Improving well-being

Far from just a musical pastime, being part of a choir has profound significance for the mental, emotional, and social well-being of the elderly, Li said.

Li Baolin, 77, is a member of the Beijing Health Voice Choir. Before joining the choir in 2015, he enjoyed taking two of his grandchildren to Zizhuyuan Park and listening to the singers.

"I was drawn to the sounds of the choir. They not only had a conductor, but also a live band. I always loved singing and I could sing all the songs they performed when I first watched their performance," recalled Li Baolin, who travels to Zizhuyuan Park by taking a 30-minute bus ride.

When one of his grandchildren started primary school, Li Baolin decided to join the choir, a decision supported by his family.

"I join in the choir activities three times a week, which has become one of my favorite things to do now. Two hours of singing fills me with energy for the whole week," said Li Baolin, a retired researcher who worked at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The conductor selects songs that senior people know and appreciate, he noted.

"The members of the choir are of a similar age and we grew up listening to those songs, mostly patriotic songs, which resonate with the shared experiences and memories of the choir members," he said.

"For seniors who have been retired for a long time, many of whom may be dealing with loneliness, loss, or health challenges, engaging in choral singing offers a lifeline to joy and companionship," said Li Baolin.

"My wife's health is not very good, so she spends much of her time at home taking care of our younger grandson, who is only two years old. My children are all adults and they are busy with their lives and work."

He said singing in the choir brings him health and happiness, and puts him in a "beautiful mood", which also benefits his family.

Not only does he attend rehearsals, but he also arrives at the park around 7 am on performance days to help carry instruments and speakers. "Life feels incomplete without singing. For us elderly folk, this is much better than seeing a doctor and taking medicine," he said.

One choir member surnamed Zhang, spends nearly two hours traveling from her home outside Beijing's Sixth Ring Road to participate in choir activities.

Despite the need to rise early to make the journey, she is always filled with anticipation knowing that she will soon be surrounded by fellow choir members and sharing in the joy of singing.

"Before each activity, the conductor sends us messages in the group chat. Many members arrive at the park 30 minutes, or even earlier, before the choir starts to perform. Our faces are radiant with enthusiasm, just like meeting with old friends," said Zhang, in her 60s, who is also retired.

1 2 Next   >>|
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349