Multiple studies have shown that singing – especially singing with a group or choir – has many benefits. These benefits can include improved physical and mental well-being, a sense of accomplishment from learning new skills, making new social connections, and the slowing of age-related cognitive decline. And on top of that, it’s just fun!
Residents at Tapestry at Arbutus Walk are lucky to have an extremely qualified leader for their weekly singing group called, “Singing With Cat.” Catherine Thornsley, aka Cat, is an accomplished vocalist with a Masters Degree in Opera Performance from the University of British Columbia School of Music.
“The main goal with this singing group is to get together with friends to share music and to have a nice time learning,” says Catherine. And she sees the benefits of singing together first hand. “The members of the group are always talking about how relaxed and happy they feel afterwards, and they feel very proud that they are learning something new,” she adds.
Catherine’s mother recognized early on that her daughter had not only a love of but a talent for singing. Catherine started singing in choirs in elementary school, and then in high school met a voice teacher who would put her on the path to becoming a classically trained opera singer. Catherine eventually studied opera at Northern Arizona University (that same influential voice teacher was one of her professors) before moving to Vancouver to pursue her Masters.
Catherine joined the Wellness Team at Arbutus Walk three years ago, working part-time while she was still studying. She now works full-time as a Wellness Associate helping to lead a variety of in-house activities for residents. And Catherine not only leads the singing group, she also offers music and poetry appreciation classes.
Thanks to Catherine’s high level of vocal training, residents participate in warm-up exercises and practice breathing techniques before they start to sing. “The breathing exercises are almost like meditation,” says Catherine. “Purposeful breathing creates more ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain.”
Two Tapestry residents who are enjoying the benefits from the singing group are friends Joan S. and Joan L. Joan S., who has previous experience singing in church and community choirs, says the camaraderie of the singing group is important to her, along with the absence of judgment about people’s singing abilities. Joan L. agrees, saying that during practices, “I see other members of the group in a different light. Sometimes they may not talk very much, but when we’re all in the group singing it just seems like we are all ‘one’,” she adds.
The two words that Joan and Joan agree on to describe how they feel after singing practice are “joy” and “lighter”. Joan L., who joined the group after hearing Joan S. talk about how much she enjoyed it, adds, “After this short experience I’ve had with the choir, I think music is healing in many ways. I can see where they are talking about singing being good for your brain and for your body.”
The singing group re-started in October 2022 with Catherine as their new leader and prepared a concert of holiday tunes to perform at Christmastime. They are currently working on a repertoire of spring-related songs for another concert that will feature songs requested by residents such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow, It Might as Well be Spring, April Showers and I Love Paris.
Catherine says you don’t need past experience singing in a choir to participate in the group. After warm-up, the group typically sings a song with a karaoke track, and then Catherine goes over any challenging passages as they work together to improve their performance of each song.
“Singing has such a unique quality to relieve people of their stress and melt away their anxiety,” says Catherine. “To be able to help make that happen for our residents is really important to me.”
Both Joans are definitely two of Catherine’s biggest fans. Says Joan L., “Cat is just ‘joy’ when it comes to music. You feel it when she walks into the room. And she has a special knack for bringing people together.”
Joan S. agrees. “Cat is a very generous spirit and very inclusive. The singing practices are just fabulous, and the vocal exercises we do certainly improve the calibre of our singing,” she says. “And besides, it’s a huge amount of fun!”
There are multiple activities available to residents each day as part of Tapestry’s focus on the 7 Dimensions of Wellness, with singing offering proven benefits in multiple dimensions including physical, intellectual, social and emotional.
If you love to sing or are looking to connect with others in a way that inspires your wellness, why not consider visiting Tapestry. Spring has sprung, and there is no better time to consider a move to one of our exceptional seniors’ communities.
We are offering a Spring move-in incentive valued at up to $5,000 when you sign a lease prior to May 31, 2023. Our Sales and Move-in Advisor is ready to assist you with downsizing, floorplans and the overall coordination of your move. Please contact us and we would be pleased to host you for lunch and a tour.
And if Catherine’s story has inspired you to explore joining the Tapestry team, please visit our Careers page for a complete list of job postings. Read more about Catherine’s incredible music career, here.