Numerous studies have proven that singing in groups provides a wide array of benefits, including assisting with depression and grief and relieving stress. That’s because the activity triggers endorphins, which creates positive feelings and possibly even changes pain thresholds in the process.
Whatever the science, singing in groups simply makes a person feel good – something retired kindergarten teacher and Gibraltar alumna Jeanne Barnard has known for years.
After leaving the county briefly for college in Milwaukee, Barnard returned home, met her future husband and married him in 1973. It was the same year when she discovered an informal group of singers who would eventually become The Peninsula Singers.
At that early stage, the group was a collection of singing friends who met once a year to perform Handel’s Messiah at Christmas. Barnard saw a greater potential in the group’s musicality, and building that potential into something larger became a passion project that she’s pursued for the past 47 years – first as a member and, for the past two years, as the group’s president.
The choir began in 1979 as The Peninsula Chamber Singers with 25 members. That membership has fluctuated over the years, from 40 to 130 people, ranging in age from young professionals to those in their 90s. Barnard said that high school students are most welcome, too, but their school schedules have usually prevented them from getting involved.
During non-COVID times, the choir holds two concerts a year: one at Christmastime and one usually the week after Mother’s Day. The Peninsula Singers comprises the main choir and a smaller, invitation-only group that’s focused on more easy-listening, popular songs that the group can share at events where a large choir wouldn’t be appropriate. The group has performed locally at church services, for Rotary meetings, and at Scandia Village and other retirement homes; and it has had paid performances at the Maritime Festival and for a service at Ephraim’s Anderson Dock.
The choir hasn’t met since March of 2020 and has already canceled the 2021 spring season because all of its members must be vaccinated before they can safely reconvene.
Despite the 2020 setbacks, choir members are looking positively toward a fall 2021 season and aim to use this period of downtime for planning and rethinking how they operate.
“The pandemic has been devastating to us,” Barnard said. “For many of us, singing is our very heart and soul, and to not be able to sing has been soul wrenching, to say the least. But it has also forced us to look at how we’re doing things and what we could do differently to make sure people know they’re welcome to join in.”
Plans include reevaluating rehearsal nights and locations to encourage broader membership, and members want to welcome new Door County residents who had relocated to work remotely in 2020 and are now sticking around. The choir board is also hoping more post-pandemic community involvement is on the horizon.
“Maybe it’s someone saying, ‘I’ve had enough of home and I’m ready to get out and do something,’” Barnard said, “or maybe they were singers when they were in high school or college, and they just didn’t have the oomph to do it before. After being quarantined for as long as we have been, they might be thinking, ‘It’s time for me to get out and do something!’”
There’s no audition process to join; members don’t need to read music; and interested singers must simply attend the first rehearsal and pay a small fee that covers the cost of the music.
“We also have scholarships available,” Barnard said. “It shouldn’t be closed to anybody.”
To find out more, contact Barnard at [email protected] or visit thepeninsulasingers.org.
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