Bell choir members Gwenn Delpitt and Charlie Winchell.

Originally titled “Life Care Center bell choir performs carols,” featured in The Herald on Dec. 13, 2016. Article by Kay Phillips. Reprinted with permission.


Residents of the Life Care Center [of Sierra Vista, Arizona,] got into the Christmas spirit last Saturday when the center’s newly formed bell choir performed a free concert of holiday favorites.


The event was an intergenerational affair with choir director and local music instructor Monica Starkey’s teenage daughter accompanying the choir on piano and drums.


The hour-long concert started at 2 p.m. and was held in the center’s main dining room. Admissions Assistant Maureen Keene said the choir played to a full house.


“We had a huge turnout,” said Keene. “We had family members come out and support, as well as some of our volunteers and past residents.”


Activities Director Debi Steel said the residents were excited for their inaugural performance. In addition to regular rehearsals, the choir invested in uniforms, wearing black shirts with festive scarves and white gloves.


“We even had our hairdresser come in to do their hair before the show,” Steel said. “It’s kind of a big deal.”


Bell choir participants range from ages 60 to 100. Steel said one of their rehabilitation patients who has since moved out of the center returned just to participate in the bell choir.


“Every time we practice, there’s one more person who shows up and wants to do it too,” shared Steel. “Even our residents who aren’t in the choir come out and listen to the bells and the chimes.”


The choir that started out with six members and has expanded to just over a dozen.


“The growth of the program has been phenomenal,” she said.


The bell choir was created this September, and since then, residents practiced two to three times a month. The activity started with Christmas carols, but the activities director said the residents are planning a spring concert.


Steel explained an additional benefit of the residents participating in the bell choir.


“Music therapy awakens parts of the brain that nothing else will,” she said. “It’s good for social development and cognitive growth.”


“I don’t know anybody who isn’t happy when they’re playing music.”


At the end of the concert, choir director Starkey urged attendees to try something new and not be afraid to say “yes” to experiences. Keene echoed the treatment.


“Our residents tried something new, and it turned out great,” said Keene. “They were all so activated and stimulated.”


“It was a very positive moment for us.”