A love of entertainment unites performers and audience members alike at Seabrook, an Erickson Senior Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J.
Members of the Seabrook Ringers hand chime ensemble and the Seabrook Performers theatrical group entertain their neighbors with lively events throughout the year in the community's newly renovated auditorium.
Ringing with enthusiasm
Nancy and George Reid, who moved to the continuing care retirement community in 2016, founded the Seabrook Ringers.
After settling into their maintenance-free apartment home, the Reids submitted a grant proposal to the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers to fund instruments for the community.
"Luckily, they approved!" recalls Nancy, a retired elementary educator, who brought 50 years of experience as a church musician with her. "I established and directed hand chime choirs at five churches."
Once they purchased enough hand chimes for all the residents interested, Nancy and George formed two groups. They practiced on different days of the week and played music ranging from Jeremiah Clarke's baroque classic "Trumpet Voluntary" to Disney's "It's a Small World."
Given hand chimes' growing popularity at the community, the couple decided to blend the two groups, calling themselves the Seabrook Ringers. Today, the group is composed of about a dozen members. Some were professional music teachers or played for their church choirs, whereas others--inspired by their new, carefree lifestyle--wanted to acquire musical skills.
"Some residents started from scratch, learning how to read music. I was more than happy to teach them," says Nancy.
In early December, the Seabrook Ringers held a concert consisting of classical music, such as one of Frederic Chopin's nocturnes, and holiday music, including a Hanukkah selection and "The Little Drummer Boy." Currently, the group is practicing new pieces like "Sakura," a traditional Japanese folk song, and a version of "Ave Maria" for a future performance.
Taking to the stage
Lindo Meli, a former resident, created the Seabrook Performers in 2009.
Since Lindo's passing, group members like Marion Kleiner proudly carry on the tradition of excellence and fervor that he established.
"I got involved the way most people got involved--through Lindo," says Marion, the Seabrook Performers' production director. "If you were walking past him down the hall, the first words out of his mouth would be, 'Do you sing?' He approached anybody and everybody!"
Marion notes that each show they produce features familiar music from popular movies or Broadway shows. The group borrows costumes from nearby Phoenix Productions and prints a formal playbill, which acknowledges the cast and crew as well as contributors, such as the community's woodshop club that designs and builds props.
In November, the Seabrook Performers' 20th show featured Broadway tunes from the 1920s through the 1960s, including excerpts from Cole Porter's 1934 musical Anything Goes. The show was dedicated to Lindo, who passed away in 2020 just before his 102nd birthday.
The cast of each show usually comprises about 30 members with a wide range of experience levels. Over the years, cast members have even included some Seabrook employees, including restaurant staff, managers, and the community's executive director.
Before moving to Seabrook, Marion had never set foot on stage. Looking back on her time with the Seabrook Performers, she's grateful for the support she's received.
"I have experimented with things here that I never would have dreamed of," she says. "Because it's such a supportive community, you feel comfortable trying something new. And, if it doesn't go as well as you thought, somebody's going to give you the encouragement to try again."
Nancy and Marion find that, through their participation in the hand chimes ensemble and theatrical performances, they feel more engaged and connected than ever before.
Honing mental and physical skills
"I appreciate the mental stimulation that's integrated in the hand chimes group," says Nancy. "Music keeps the mind going, especially when you have to be attentive. Hand chimes are the only musical group where every member has to pick their musical notes out of the entire score of music. That really gets your mind and your hand-eye coordination going."
"Remembering all your lines is challenging but also fulfilling, especially when you hear the audience and see people afterwards in the halls," says Marion. "When my neighbors recall a song from a show they saw, it makes me feel like I've made a contribution to the community."
She adds, "We performers, we like to make people happy. We've got 200 people sitting in front of us, and they're just tapping their toes, clapping their hands, applauding for the cast members. It bonds us all together. Getting involved is a wonderful way of living your life."
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