Sounds Good! Choir ‘Happy Together’ to perform for a live audience after two years


Photo courtesy of Julie Kucko

Sounds Good! Choir performed their second of four shows on May 1 in Wheaton, Illinois.

Jenna Wang, Reporter

After two years of online singing, Sounds Good! Choir will be returning to the stage with “Happy Together” in four free shows from April 30 to May 15.

Sounds Good! Choir is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the joy of singing to seniors across the Chicago area. All seven of the organization’s ensembles are non-auditioned and run by professional conductors and musicians.

Helen Gagel (Medill ’68) started singing in the Evanston-based choir in 2016. Just two years later, she helped launch the local Good Memories choir, a subset of Sounds Good! that serves people with early-stage memory loss and their care partners.

Gagel said organizing the choir was especially personal because her mother had Alzheimer’s Disease. She said through music, she could rekindle a connection with her mother.

“When all other means of communication and conversation were gone, she would react to music,” Gagel said. “I had personal affirmation that music is good for people with memory loss.”

Co-founders and married couple Jonathan Miller and Sandy Siegel Miller founded Sounds Good! in 2016 after losing family members. Jonathan had also lost his job in the private sector.

As a clinical psychologist and the program director, Sandy Siegel Miller said there are many emotional, social and physiological benefits to singing in a choir, like creating a community and finding connections.

“The choir is a place that brings everyone together in a shared activity, and the creation of music lifts everyone up,” Sandy Siegel Miller said. “For some people, it really was, by their description, a lifeline.”

When the group shut down in March 2020 because of the pandemic, Sandy Siegel Miller said the lifeline seemed to float away.

Despite social isolation and technology complications, the Millers said they tried to provide a continuing sense of community through online coffee chats and sing-alongs.

“One woman said (the coffee chats) were the only thing that was on her schedule all week for months,” Jonathan Miller said. “Others have said, ‘Sounds Good! Choir saved my life.’”

Emerging from the struggles of the pandemic, the couple said they have experienced many anxieties about putting on an in-person show after working remotely for more than two years. They said they quickly realized the need to assemble a team of volunteers to handle logistics and marketing.

Every concert is free, Jonathan Miller said, so the choir can share their work with the community at large.

“Our concerts are a rallying point for people to come out of the community and cheer on the miraculous things older adults can do,” Jonathan Miller said. “We give them a place where they can shine and their talents are showcased and they get to dress up and be on stage and have a standing ovation. What’s not to love about that?”

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