Don Greenwood, a retired architect and lifelong resident of Fairfax County, discovered a passion for singing in his later years. And though like many older adults, he’s been forced to isolate throughout much of the pandemic, he’s still found a way to make his voice heard.
The 72-year-old Greenwood has been rehearsing and recording his first virtual holiday choral concert involving more than 400 older adult singers from across the country.
Produced by Encore Creativity for Older Adults, the nation’s largest choral organization for adults over 55, in collaboration with AARP, this multimedia production premiered on Encore’s home page, www.encorecreativity.org and on YouTube and Facebook last week and will be available for viewing until Jan. 16.
“They had surveyed all the singers to see if they wanted to participate and I of course wanted to do it,” Greenwood said. “There are two songs that are rock-n’-roll oriented and the rest is Christmas music.”
Encore Chorale’s repertoire includes “Deck the Hall,” arranged by Chad Weirick; “Sleigh Ride,” arranged by Keith Christopher; “Ose Shalom” by John Leavitt; and “Rise up!” arranged by Mark Hill. Greenwood also joined in on “I am a Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel and “North Pole Medley,” an upbeat rock combo of holiday songs arranged by Mac Huff.
Although he liked to sing in the car or around the house, Greenwood only started singing for people about a year ago, having joined the Fairfax Encore ROCKS, learning the proper way to sing through in-person weekly sessions.
“Being an Encore member has given me the opportunity to actually receive professional vocal training as part of rehearsing for the first time in my life,” he said. “They had to pivot to create Encore University in March so we could continue doing things online. We had some great courses over the summer.”
Last December, Greenwood was a member of the group that performed holiday songs at the Kennedy Center.
With the pandemic ruining any chance of a return visit, Greenwood was happy to hear of this virtual option. To take part, singers recorded themselves from home which he pulled off by finessing a low-tech method that included a ladder and piles of books to set up a proper recording “studio” in his home.
“They set up a video to teach up how to do it and you needed to position your IPhone in such a way that you could only see from the top of your head to below your belt buckle, and you needed a white wall, which I didn’t have, so I needed to jerry rig something up,” Greenwood said. “And of course, you had to dress up in Encore attire, which for guys is a black shirt and black pants.”
He’s very pleased with how the virtual concert turned out, though of course, he would much rather be singing in person again with his new chorale friends.
“My only experience was really singing in a choir at church when I was a kid, and that was boring to me, so I didn’t stay with it long,” Greenwood said. “I had the obligatory music class in high school way, way back, but had no formal training at all. Thankfully, Encore didn’t require any audition, so I came in wide-eyed and bushy tailed.”
He took to the lessons quickly and learned about different notes and styles and was thrilled that his singing was getting stronger with each passing month.
“It’s been a real interesting experience,” he said. “These are truly professional people and they work with us and teach us and there are members from all over.”
Greenwood plans to continue singing with the group and encourages others his age to take part.
“Music is a really great tool for older people, particularly when it comes to maintaining your cognitive abilities,” Greenwood said. “For me personally, it’s been a great tool to keep my brain going, learning new music every session and the nuances of each song. I’m enjoying it tremendously.”