In cities across Italy, impromptu balcony concerts lifted neighbors' spirits during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Videos quickly went viral, giving people around the globe a sense of hope and community.
Inspired by those videos and their lifelong love of music, Ann's Choice residents Bill and Karen Frye brought the same spirit of togetherness—from a safe distance—to the Erickson Living developed and managed senior living community in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
In March, the couple invited neighbors in their shared courtyard to stay-at-home sing-alongs every afternoon. Bill played guitar, and voices lifted from windows, balconies, and patios.
The couple came up with a creative way to keep the music going during Pennsylvania's stay-at-home order: They recorded songs on audio files and emailed them to friends and neighbors.
Bill notes, "Everyone could enjoy the music while remaining safe. Plus, it was a fun thing to receive in your inbox each day."
Karen adds, "We were so happy to draw people away from the news and lift them up. Ann's Choice has done a fantastic job of taking care of us. We couldn't have found a better place to spend our retirement years."
Music brought them together
Music has been a lifelong passion for Bill and Karen, even though neither pursued it professionally. Karen, who holds a master's degree in French, taught in Easton, Penn., until her first marriage. She later returned to work as a pharmacy technician.
Bill taught himself to play guitar in high school when he appeared in a production of The Sound of Music. He worked in sales until he retired; in 1996 he began a full-time career as an entertainer of senior citizens.
At one of those performances, celebrating the music of bandleader Fred Waring, he met Karen. "Our shared love of music brought us together," she says. They married in 2015 and moved to Ann's Choice together in 2018.
"We didn't look at other communities," recalls Bill, "because Ann's Choice had everything we wanted. My greatest hope was to establish camaraderie and friendship with our fellow residents, and it has come true beyond our expectations."
Karen had only two, simple requirements—an indoor pool and no more cooking—both of which Ann's Choice fulfilled. "We have been delighted with our move to Ann's Choice and are especially grateful for their concern for our health and safety during the pandemic," she says.
The music plays on
Music remains a major force in both their lives. Bill cantors at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, and Karen sings in the choir at Ivyland Presbyterian Church. They often entertain memory care residents at Rose Garden, the Ann's Choice continuing care neighborhood.
For the past seven years, Karen has co-hosted the Country Roundup radio show on WDVR-FM, a community station in Sergeantsville, N.J. "Listeners know me as Calamity Karen," she says. "Bill has filled in several times, answering the request line, playing guitar, and singing. We love working together."
She continues, "Music just makes people feel good. Once this is over, I anticipate a lot of in-person sing-alongs at Ann's Choice. We can't wait."
To learn more about Ann's Choice, visit www.annschoicecommunity.com
Ann's Choice, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 103-acre campus in Warminster, Pennsylvania. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,900 residents and 1,000 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Ann's Choice can be found at AnnsChoiceCommunity.com.
Photo: Karen and Bill Frye in the booth during Karen's weekly radio show, Country Roundup. They work together when Karen's co-host Rita Cleary takes a day off.
Written by Dorrie Ansel