Here they come a-wassailing …
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) of Southeastern Delaware brought bright holiday wishes with a choral performance at the Sussex County Senior Services CHEER Center on Friday, Dec. 15.
The chorus was first organized in 2000, headed by director Ann Jaeger, a retired high-school music teacher. “When I retired in the area,” said Jaeger, “I noticed that there were no musical [programs for seniors]. So I went to the [AARP] board and suggested it and they said, ‘OK.’ We ran with it from that point, and we have a grand time.”
The group began preparing for the holiday performance back in September. “We always have new people,” said Jaeger. “There are people moving away, and new people taking their place, so we have to start preparing for members that we might pick up.”
The AARP chorus has been bringing good tidings this season since the first of the month.
“We’ve already been to the Gull House in Rehoboth and a Presbyterian church Christmas party,” said AARP chorus member Lew Kremer, who assists Jaeger with page-turning after his wife, already a chorus member, suggested he come out. “I don’t sing too well,” Kremer said with a laugh.
“We head to all kinds of nursing homes, retirement homes and churches — wherever they’d like to have a choral program,” said Kremer. With more performances scheduled, including stops at the Bay Center and Berlin’s Gull Creek Senior Living Community, the chorus members look to keep themselves and others in festive spirits throughout the season.
“We’re all over the place,” added Jaeger. “We kind of cover this area. We’ve been up to the Sheraton in Dover in past years, too.” They’ve traveled from Lewes, to Salisbury, to Seaford and everywhere in between.
“As far as we know,” said Kremer, “there’s no other [AARP] chapter in Delaware that has a chorus. In fact, we don’t know if any [chapter] in the rest of the United States has a chorus, but I’m sure there is one.”
The group has been tagged as the South Coastal AARP Chorus, but as Jaeger said, they like to refer to themselves as Singers of Note.
“And we never have a full group,” she added. “People are either out of town or they have family problems, so we always have to accommodate for that. It’s an active group, though. At one point, we had membership pushing 40.” Despite the handful that couldn’t make it to Friday’s performance, including one of the group’s soloists, the crowd seemed to enjoy the show, singing and tapping their feet along to the carols.
“This is their second year performing since we moved into the new building,” said Sheree Stephens, director of the senior center. “They bring us the show for free, which is really wonderful.”
After the new year, the chorus begins practicing in preparation for a similar tour of springtime performances. “In the spring season, we do Broadway show tunes, folk music and spiritual tunes,” said Jaeger.
While the chorus performs free of charge, they do take donations. “We always love to have new members, too,” said Kremer. “They have to be members of AARP, but it’s great to see new faces out here.”