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Sound of music is sweeter than chocolate

Belgium-born resident brings world-class operas to his neighbors

Created date

June 14th, 2018
Walter Bogaerts has had a love affair with opera for more than 50 years. Since moving to Cedar Crest two years ago, he has been sharing that love with his neighbors by showing twice-monthly operas in the community’s performing arts center.

Walter Bogaerts has had a love affair with opera for more than 50 years. Since moving to Cedar Crest two years ago, he has been sharing that love with his neighbors by showing twice-monthly operas in the community’s performing arts center.

Walter Bogaerts and his wife Anja may be known as “the chocolate people” around Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community where they live in Pequannock Township, N.J., but to them the sound of music is much sweeter.

The couple, originally from Belgium (hence their chocolate fame), curate twice-monthly operas, which they show in the community’s 250-seat performing arts center. From Verde to Rossini to Mozart, Walter has about 50 DVDs in his collection.

“I show one every first and third Monday afternoon. Therefore, that’s about 26 a year, but we travel a lot, so by the time you deduct the travel it’s about 18 a year,” he explains.

Having lived at Cedar Crest for just over two years after moving from Florida, he’s just beginning to cycle through the operas again.

Before he hits “play,” Walter gives a ten-minute presentation about the composer, the history, the libretto, and the performers. Then he shows the opera with subtitles.

This format has proved successful—he gets upwards of 60 to 70 people each time—but it’s not new. “When we lived in New Jersey, I gave some opera lectures for neighbors. I did the same thing in Florida. When we moved here, there was an opera program, but I took it over because I speak about seven languages, including music,” he says.

The language of music

An engineer by trade, Walter says music has been a significant part of his life since he was ten years old. In addition to primary school, he attended a music conservatory in Belgium from ages 10 to 22.

“In the evening, I went three nights a week to study classical music, musical theory, piano, and classical guitar,” he says.

At age 20, he met Anja, whose mother introduced him to opera. Since then, his love for the musical performances has only grown.

“For me, it’s the music, of course. It’s all about the music,” he says.

And while he doesn’t have a favorite opera or composer, he says he does prefer baroque composers. “Other people not so much because there’s not a lot of action. It’s all about the music, not so much the theater and the story,” he says.

Cultural abundance

Aside from watching other people perform music, Walter enjoys playing his classical guitar—“but strictly in my apartment. I performed once as part of a one-hour performance, but I prefer to play privately. I have had a few friends and neighbors over to our apartment for music,” he says.

Their Oxford-style, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment home at Cedar Crest easily accommodates a small crowd. Its open floor plan and large kitchen is perfect for entertaining, and the acoustics aren’t bad either!

“We had a 4,000-square-foot house in Florida, and we used about the same amount of square footage as we do here,” he says. Now they have less to maintain but more to enjoy out of life, as Cedar Crest’s on-campus amenities include restaurants, a fitness and aquatics center, classrooms and music rooms, community gardens, and nearly 200 clubs and activities.

A monthly service package covers just about all monthly living costs, including home and landscape maintenance, utilities (except telephone), property taxes, and a flexible meal plan.

“The lifestyle is pretty easy,” Walter says of Cedar Crest. “We like the fact that you don’t have maintenance anymore. You can pretty much walk everywhere. We both walk a lot, probably six days a week, five to six miles indoors. We have a couple of gyms. All that is pretty attractive.”

They visited several Erickson Living communities after hearing rave reviews from a friend. They liked the lifestyle, the activities, the socialization, and the financial concept of Erickson Living communities. They chose Cedar Crest for its location—close to New York City as well as to their daughter.

“We felt a little bit of cultural deficiency in Florida,” Walter says. “There’s so much more cultural activity here, and we’re close to the New York area.”

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