1. The CoRe Choir

CoRe is a choir made up of guests of retirement homes of the “Empolese-Valdelsa” territory, their family members, volunteers and professional careers who work there. It is led by maestro Simone Faraoni, musician and professional choirmaster.

CoRe formed in 2010, thanks to the effort of an informal network of both residential and daily care services for old people that are all cooperating with the National Health Service.

The network coordinates the activities of geriatric social educators working in those facilities. Actually, exchanges, debate, discussion, joint activities between some of these facilities started almost twenty years ago and evolved in time in a continuous and close relationship, with important effects on quality of life of guests.

Empolese – Valdelsa is a region with peculiar features: it is quite homogeneous but sprinkled with villages that preserve, each of them, their unique character and total autonomy. On the other hand, the region is exemplarily well integrated from the social, economic and cultural point of view. This allowed for the development of a set of shared tools and methodologies for the implementation of educational activities in services aimed at old people, based on reciprocal training, exchange of good practices, outcomes comparison and sharing of objectives and strategies.

Participants shared previous experiences in musical projects, collection of memories and fostering of autobiographical narration that educators were already carrying on in each facility.

No public financial contribution supports CoRe: All facilities backup it financially, contributing in equal parts in the rehearsals phase and taking care of production expenses for performances taking place in their town.

2. The Musical Approach

2.1 How CoRe musical material is chosen

CoRe musical repertoire is not always of the same genre and ranges over a variety of genres, even in the same performance. Choice is based on criteria functional to the project, on themes dealt with and on specific activities and performances that we intend to do. Main criteria are:

  1. suitability for the musical work that CoRe aims to doing with old people: CORe is a musical activity whose purpose is that of involving and musically "activate" many different persons who may possess different physical and cognitive capabilities, which we don't know about when beginning. Activities are designed and implemented in a way that maximizes inclusivìty and flexibility. Therefore, we mostly choose musical material that can be manipulated (e.g. broken up in small pieces that can be used as ostinato), that offers opportunities for improvisations and variations in terms of speed, dynamics, phrasing and articulation, which favors simple polivocal structures, such ads the antiphonal model or the alternation between two groups. Popular music is often very suitable for that: it can be used by groups and easily adapted to specific needs. However, non-folk music can be often treated in the same way,.
  2. relevance to the theme on the basis of which CoRe develops its activity that particular year (theme usually changes each year) CoRe promotes collection of old people life stories and the development of collective practices of building of memories (of a community through old people), and this work usually starts from a specific themes. Songs too are chosen on the basis of the theme that is dealt with, paying particular attention to lyrics.
  3. expected contribution to the effectiveness of the performance. Some tunes or musical practices (percussive, improvisational, etc.) because they are deemed particularly effective in achieving the objectives of the performance, among which the active involvement of the public.
  4. songs, especially those sang by soloists, are chosen considering:
    • the pleasure (positive effective on wellness) showed in singing them or the sentimental ties with the song itself;
    • the quality of the testimony that that particular solo performance seems to offer. Sometimes songs are taught by od people themselves. They might be completely unknown songs, sometimes intimately connected to the person who sing them).

2.2. How CoRe musical material is used

We claim that music is in CoRe is all treated is it was “popular music”. All music sang by CoRe sounds popular, and it becomes “popular” because of the way we treat it: for the methods we use, the relation that we develop with the public through it, for the motivation of singing it and the purpose it serves.

Let's consider some elements that in our view folk music and the music we use in CoRe have in common:

  1. As for the method, i. e. the way we use the musical material:
    • the oral dimension is predominant, in teaching, transmitting, learning songs and singing them, in rehearsals and performance;
    • we always “arrange” the music, we are not concerned with being faithful to an original/authentic model;
    • we manipulate the musical material in a uninhibited way to make it “useful” to our communicative objectives;
    • the same melodies are executed with a large number of variations (by soloists or choir or between different executions) and we always have an open and welcoming attitude towards variants.
  2. As for the relationship with the public and the motivation to sing:
    • the music and the way it is used in CoRe is chosen mainly to guarantee that meetings are inclusive and favor socialization;
    • in performances, people of CoRe sing first of all for themselves, because they feel that singing is good for them, and help socialization and communication inside the group. The relationship with the public has an emotional charge, but we don't pay any attention to the (conventional) standards that a public exhibition would normally require. CoRe makes this attitude of old people, also typical of traditional folk singers, its own. We don't care about the conventional “quality” of the performance: instead, the objective is to involve the public in our game, in our way-to-live-with-music, so that the performance itself is never an accomplished products, but something that continuously transforms itself, unpredictably, as it happens in executions of true popular music.

2.3 Examples of repertoire

More specifically, depending on the various kind of meetings we had and the many performances that we created, CoRe repertoire includes:

  • Italian popular songs, on different topics: songs, sometimes unpublished, of troubadours, stornellos, rhymes and nursery rhymes, work songs, political songs, love songs, lullabies;
  • non-Italian popular songs in langfuages ranging from English to Wolof
  • solo or choir arias or part of them taken from the Italian melodrama repertoire; •
  • songs form operetta or minor operas of diverse kind (including the Three Penny Opera by Brecht-Weill);
  • pop Italian songs of years from 1920' to 1960, refrains or parts of songs, sometimes freely rearranged or disguised with different words;
  • Italian songwriters' songs;
  • jingles;
  • playful songs, improvisations, spoken sentences “musically used”.

3. CORE’s Inclusive approach

CoRe project is inclusive from at least three different points of view:

Inclusivity of choral music

Many people like singing, especially very well known songs that trigger memories and stimulate memory, especially emotional memory. Singing is an immediate form of artistic expression, easier than e.g. playing an instrument or painting. Voice is the musical instrument par excellence, because it is “internal”, we own it from birth, it is “our” instrument.

However, singing requires the activatin of a complex set of abilities, especially when we choose to sing in a choir: the choir protects, makes up for the mistakes of the single participant, but at the same time requires discipline and the ability to listen and socialize. Therefore, a choir is a good tool for inclusion, and a central aim of CoRe is developing socialization and communication, including all those who wish to take part.

Inclusivity in the community

Old person often can’t easily find a meaningful role in the community as a consequence of several factors, such as retirement, precarious health and economic conditions, structure of families and communities, whose inclusive features are fading, and a social stigma not only on dementia but on aging itself. Lack of social inclusion policies is an additional cause acceleration of transition of people form the “Active Old Persons” to the “Fragile Old Persons” group.

Since 2011, every summer, CoRe produces a theatrical performance, taking life stories, songs of old persons on the scene, together with the old persons themselves; this way creating communication, dialogue between different ages groups that find a common ground for reciprocal understanding and learning. Participation in social and cultural life and a change in perception of Fragile Old Persons is actually one of the main aims of CoRe.

Inclusivity as newtwork of involved entities (facilities, caregivers, educators)

Core is a complex, multilayered project that developed together with the idea of building a network among educators/activities coordinators of residential facilities for old persons in the Empolese Valdelsa territory.

Periodical network meetings have been getting more and more inclusive. A growing number of educators is taking part, and even interns and young people who were perfomring community service in those facilities.

4. Core and Covid

CoRe project has undergone a substantial redesign during the pandemic. Restriction to mobility and social distancing measures, particularly “cruel” for old persons in residential facilities, have been nonetheless a stimulous for experimenting with new forms of meeting and inclusion.

CoRe evolved adopting virtual meeting methods made possible by the Internet, both for meetings and musical rehearsals and for collection and sharing of life stories and memories of the old persons.

For meetings the Zoom platform was used: sometimes the choir master (Simone Faraoni) connected from home. Some other times he worked in a facility, whereas the others facilities were connected through Zoom.

Difficulties were faced that prompted technical upgrades and experimentation od innovative methodologies such as:

  • improvement in Internet connectivity;
  • purchase of audio amplifying systems, use of microphones and projectors;
  • careful choice of the setting, that had to be as quiet as possibile;
  • limiting groups size /(max 6-7 persons);
  • be prepared to work anyway, even with Internet-related disturbances;
  • preparation of video and audio tutorials before the meetings.

The experience acquired with the blended methodologies used in ICC was very useful.

The experimentation confirmed that singing, and singing in choir in particular, is an effective tool to promote personal welfare, to build personal relationship and to work as a network.

Compared to previous years, however, we misses meeting the enlarged community, the institutions, other players in cultural life, friends, citizens in general. Lack of dialogue with audience was responsible for a diminished motivation.

CoRe is currently working on the theme of resilience, chosen to share difficulties faced during these months and relate them with other experiences, chosen by collecting life stories and selecting musical material. The subject we are a dealing with, singing and communicating through the Internet, is therefore: “Life unpredictability, or resilience stories, how to manage change.”

We intend to show stories, songs and performances to some selected persons:

  • actors or just “readers” who will record their interpretation of the text of one of the collected stories;
  • singers or different choirs that record their interpretation of the songs.

Interpreted songs and stories will be shared with the old persons who told them, and will be used further in other activities.

We also intend to relate the stories of old persons, which will probably refer, mostly, to a quite remote past, to the stories of some of the caregivers and educators about their resilience experience during the pandemic.

Last modified: Thursday, 18 March 2021, 9:49 AM