Senior Living & Resources
Corpus Christi School first-graders, above, listen attentively as music therapist Emily Sanderson welcomes Mercy Retirement and Care Center residents to the concert. After the performance, right, the students shook hands with the Memory Care residents who wrote the lyrics.
ALL: MICHELE JURICH/
THE CATHOLIC VOICE
First-graders perform memorable concert
at Mercy Center
It's not every day that lyricists hear their words sung by enthusiastic young performers, but that's what happened on a rainy day March 10, at Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland.
The lyricists, all residents in the memory care unit, were the honored guests in ribbon-bedecked front-row seats.
At the guitar was Emily Sanderson, the music therapist who had orchestrated this special event.
On stage were 30-something first-graders from Corpus Christi School in Piedmont, who had spent weeks rehearsing the songs the elders had written.
Sanderson, a board-certified music therapist, has written music with elders in the course of her 10-year career. But this was the first time the elders' words would be sung on stage.
"As far as I understand, this is the first time this has been done," Sanderson told the audience, which included Mercy residents and staff, as well as parents of the children. "I've never had the opportunity to write music with elders here at Mercy, or any other community, and then take that music that we wrote together and have students sing those words and perform for us today."
This would be the first time the elders would hear the songs that they had written, she said. "None of the words you hear today are my words," she said, "they are words of our elders here in memory care."
It was the elders themselves who suggested students sing the songs, Sanderson said.
She asked Dorothy Lee, the longtime first-grade teacher at Corpus Christi, who often brings her students to Mercy Center. "I knew she would say yes," Sanderson said.
All the residents in memory care participate in music therapy, Sanderson said." All residents do benefit from music therapy," she said. Music therapy has a particular resonance for those who are verbal, she said. While there are 22 people living in the memory care residence, a group that fluctuated from three to seven participated in writing the lyrics over six months.
Sanderson noted "the wonderful things they share through the magical medium of music."
The audience got to experience that first hand, as the concert began with a song entitled, "Let Them Do It," which was inspired by the lyricists watching a parade of schoolchildren passing by on the sidewalk below their third-floor window.
"They were yelling and waving at us," she said, "and that's what made us think of writing this song."
The second song "Good Books" was inspired by the residents' own memories. "We have a lot of former teachers, principals and nurses, and they talk about how important good books are in our lives, especially for students," she said.
The first-graders sang enthusiastically and without song sheets. Their teacher stood in the back of the room, silently encouraging them. Occasionally a voice would rise in the audience, offering accompaniment.
The lyrics spoke of respect, encouragement, courtesy, gratitude and not being afraid to show one's talents.
After the concert, the students moved among the residents, shaking hands and exchanging greetings, before returning to their Piedmont school.
The lyricists and their fellow residents were ready for lunch.
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