New local choir features older adults


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Members of the Evanston Encore Chorale, a choir focused on the city’s older adults, rehearse music Monday morning at Three Crowns Park in preparation for their upcoming December concerts.

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter


For a budding Evanston choir, experience is something are definitely not missing: Most of the choir has been singing for over half a century.

The Evanston Encore Chorale, a choir aimed at the city’s older adults, is conducted by its founder Jonathan Miller, who said the choir is inspired by the city’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene.

“Evanston is a village of cultured arts,” Miller said. “People live in Evanston because they want to be surrounded by the arts … They want to be active participants in them.”

Miller, who has been involved with choral music his entire life and previously worked as a full-time music publisher, said it is fulfilling to return to conducting an ensemble of his own, an activity he missed doing throughout his professional career.

After the positive response the choir’s trial sessions received this past spring, Miller said he was excited to extend the sessions in the fall, making them run more than 15 weeks.

“We’ve been around just long enough now that people are starting to bring their friends,” Miller said. “That’s really gratifying because (the choir) means enough to them. It’s given their hearts joy so they want to share it with people they love.”

Alice Dolan, a chorus member who also sings with the Chicago Bar Association Chorus and the St. Matthews Episcopal Church choir in Evanston, said Miller makes the weekly rehearsal experience with the group very enjoyable.

“He is able to bring a story to each of the pieces, so it makes you understand what you’re singing and why, as opposed to it just being notes on a page,” Dolan said.

The choir is one of six different choirs around the Chicago area run by Encore Illinois, the mother organization Miller founded in early 2016. Miller said the six groups rehearse the same repertoire, and members are encouraged to participate in extra rehearsals at other locations or even perform in several group concerts.

Miller added that the choir appeals to older adults because it inspires them to stay active.

“It’s the knowledge that you’re going to come and be stretched every week in rehearsal to sight read, to blend with your partners … and to make something beautiful,” he said.

Archie Johnson, 71, said Miller helps foster a tight-knit community of singers in the choir. She added that joining the group has been a “godsend” for her because she is in the process of becoming an empty-nester, as her daughter recently got married and will soon move out.

“It’s been very difficult for me because it was just the two of us,” she said. “This is a good time for me to do this. I’ve always wanted to sing in a group like this.”

The choir has two scheduled performances in December, and an additional one where all six local Encore choirs will participate.

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Twitter: @jenniferhepp97