Renate Schwanke has been singing for

Harrison Happenings: Impromptu songs with seniors saved the day

Volunteer's quick action led to long-standing Harrison and Agassiz singing group

It happened during the year 2005, at the Logan Manor Seniors Residence Home in Agassiz. It was afternoon and the seniors were seated in the foyer, waiting for some entertainers to arrive to give a piano concert. The concert never happened however, because the entertainers never came. Somehow they had forgotten about it.

Renate Schwanke, sitting in the audience, realized that somebody had to do something to save the situation. Why, she thought, don’t we try to sing together? It might not be perfect, but it could be fun!

And this is how the first sing-along group was started at Logan Manor. The residents called them Renate and Friends because from then on Renate not only came herself to sing with them, she also brought along friends, including some musicians.

Logan Manor was setting up tables and provided coffee and cookies. In addition, Renate often brought along her fruit flans as a special treat. Some seniors who live close by started to drop-in and join in the fun. It was a win-win situation: Renate and her friends like to come and sing, and the residents and guests like to join.

Songs bring back memories and singing itself is good for your health.

The big surprise however is that six years later Renate’s sing-alongs are still popular. Not only this, a few times per year, Renate and Friends are putting together special events for the residents, such as the ever-popular Oktoberfest or other celebrations.

This year, December 13, was such a day. Under the direction of Margo Galea, a group of singers were entertaining, accompanied by Karrie Mathew on piano, and Gisela Montague with the flute. And of course, there were special treats because after all, it is Christmastime.

Then on December 27, Renate’s son will be visiting and will play the trumpet. And Leo Van Tol will be there with his accordion. It will be a very special sing-along for sure.

Who would have thought all of this in 2005?

Volunteering to sing and entertain at senior residences has become quite popular since then, and a number of other groups have sprung up all over the place. This is a good thing, because also since then, many more senior residences have opened and provide ready-made audiences.

If one starts volunteering however, one thing leads to another, and so it happened that Renate also started to organize bi-monthly Brunch get-togethers for the Harrison Hikers and Singers.

Some of the hikers belong to the new generation, some are old timers — one lady is 94 years of age — which is hard to believe, but all are happy to see each other.

On December 4 we met at Minter Gardens Trillium Restaurant for a Nutcracker Brunch. Santa was there as well and a good time was had by all.

Thank you very much, Renate, and Merry Christmas to you all and the friends.