As singer Ben Klein crooned, Janae Sluys crowed about a rare concert at Surrey’s Czorny Alzheimer Centre.
“This has been the first live music for most of these people since March 2020, so it’s been tough,” Sluys said as Klein sang songs by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and others, with close to two dozen Czorny residents gathered around, distanced.
“This is our second or third attempt to bring another concert here, and it’s finally happened. It’s been the best part of my job, bringing live music to residents like this.”
Under clear skies Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 6), Klein’s outdoor solo performance was brought to residents of the Fraser Health-operated care facility by Rick’s Heart Foundation and its Heart for Music program, which Sluys co-ordinates.
With COVID-19 keeping live music out of local care homes over the past 18 months, the program began setting up concerts outside. Last year and into 2021, residents watched and listened from rooms inside buildings, at places including Surrey’s Zion Park Manor, where musician Glen Pearson played last April.
For Klein’s hour-long concert at Czorny, residents listened to the music while seated on chairs set up outside, near the facility entrance, and enjoyed cotton candy from a booth, rented for the occasion by Heart for Music.
“This is amazing, and it’s at no cost to us,” said Kerry Netherton, the Alzheimer centre’s recreation program co-ordinator. “And to have high-level entertainment like this, it’s very special.”
Based in Surrey and launched in 2018, Rick’s Heart Foundation helps those struggling with addiction and homelessness, both locally and globally, and supports local seniors with personal music throughout B.C. The charity’s Heart for Music program has provided 50 care homes with personal music equipment, and has hosted 13 live-music events in 2021, so far.
“This all started a few years ago with Rick Diamond, the foundation’s founder, whose dad was in a care home, and he brought him music and then saw the positive impact that had on his father,” Sluys explained. “It’s now our main program that we offer to all not-for-profit long-term care homes in B.C.
“Czorny was one of the first facilities, the original six, we worked with,” she added, “where we brought MP3 players and a computer with iTunes, that was our original program. Now we’ve switched over to Spotify, and we’re supporting that streaming service with tablets and headphones.”
The pandemic has played havoc with the concert calendar.
“We’ve cancelled probably 50 per cent of our concerts and then re-booked them, just because in a given month it looks OK, then restrictions change, or the (care home) gets an outbreak – that was more of a thing last fall, earlier this year,” Sluys noted.
“We’re hoping to do more (concerts), of course, and this year we’re thinking maybe some holiday-themed (concerts) at Christmas, if we’re able. That’d be fun.”
Typically, a vintage pink firetruck is parked wherever Heart for Music concerts happen, but not at Czorny this time around.
“Unfortunately it’s 50 years old so it broke down,” Sluys said. “It’s just not here today. Maybe next time.”
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Alzheimer's DiseaseCharity and DonationsFraser HealthLive musicSeniors