Great pieces for performing at a nursing home

January 25, 2018, 1:03 PM · So. I`m thinking of performing at the local nursing home. Do you know some [classical] pieces that work well for older folks?
I am thinking of Canon in D, Moonlight Sonata, the Four Seasons, Rachmaninoff`s Vocalise, Schubert`s Standchen Serenade, and Monti`s Czardas. Any that you know that can be added to the list would be wonderful:)
I play both piano and violin, so if you have any in mind that are for primarily piano, that`s great, too (they have a piano there).
Thanks in advance.

Replies (11)

January 25, 2018, 2:11 PM · There can be a big difference between nursing home residents and "older folks." You might check with the administration or caretakers at the home to get some idea of the demographics and mental conditions of their residents who might attend.

Having said that, I have found the pieces in the "Last Resort Music" compendiums of classical music reductions worked really well. I usually did it with a trio (2 violins & cello which was sometimes violin, cello & piano, and after the 2nd violinist passed we did violin & cello, violin & viola or piano and any one of the strings).

Also include some more contemporary music of the residents "times" consider going back as far as WW-II favorites. And don't neglect religion-based music - if it seems appropriate.

January 25, 2018, 3:00 PM · Jeanette,

Much of Victor's advice is great. However, keep in mind that the early "Boomer" generation is already 70 and our musical tastes aren't the same as the generation before us who have fond memories of WW-II music. Actually, we boomers were the first to go crazy for Rock n' Roll, The Beatles, et cetera.

Also, as Victor noted, hymnody works well with a lot of people of all ages.

Talk to the staff and get an idea of the age range of the residents first. Also see if there is a predominant religious sect that will point you in the direction of familiar hymns.

Edited: January 25, 2018, 3:11 PM · Over the years I have played for a lot audiences I didn't know very well (guessed their interests, but, really, these were mere speculations based on time and place, etc); and I have listened to performers I didn't know.

What I learned was that, if you play music you sincerely believe to be interesting, especially if it has a lot of contrast, then audiences do not really have to know the music (have heard it before) to enjoy it.

Make your music sing, sizzle, and weep, and they will enjoy it.

Edited: January 26, 2018, 6:06 AM · My recommendation would be to keep it light, simple, and to stay away from classical. I would do Broadway tunes, Tango, Kreisler, etc. My parents are in an assisted living home. I am only thinking of what they might be interested in hearing.
January 25, 2018, 8:40 PM · For the old folks nostalgia is very important and therapeutic. At least throw in some popular tunes from their day.
January 26, 2018, 12:44 AM · I play at my mother's assisted living center several times a year, where most of the residents are in their 80s or above (my mother is 91). The only classical pieces I usually play are Thais and Czardas--also occasionally Ave Maria. I play a lot of Broadway tunes, patriotic songs (including the military marches for the five branches of the armed services), popular songs, hymns, fiddle tunes, etc. Danny Boy is always a hit.

I avoid the Star Spangled Banner because I don't want anyone trying to stand up. Once I played My Country 'Tis of Thee, forgetting it was also God Save the Queen, and an elderly British lady stood up. Oops.

January 26, 2018, 6:11 AM · Some of the favorites at the nursing home we play include “Besame Mucho”, “Hey Good Lookin’”, “All of Me”, “Beyond The Sea”, “Happy Together” and just about any Beatles songs we’ve played. We also have made “God Bless America” a regular closing song and invite the audience to sing along.
January 26, 2018, 6:17 AM · My list would include: Take me out to the ballgame, You Raise Me Up, Over the Rainbow, Happy Trails, Crazy - Patsy Cline, You'll Never Walk Alone,
January 26, 2018, 6:43 AM · I've been playing once a month at a nursing home with a pianist for about ten years now. Show tunes are by far the most popular thing we do, especially a Rogers & Hammerstein collection with songs from The King and I, Oklahoma, and The Sound of Music. Well-known jazz standards also go over pretty well. Patriotic songs near the 4th of July, and carols and hymns in December are also very popular. We include some light classical for variety, which sometimes gets a good reception and sometimes doesn't. We've used this setting to try out some classical stuff we've worked on (e.g., Dvorak and Schubert sonatinas), and while this was useful for us, it didn't prompt much response. In your situation, I might tend to stay away from unaccompanied violin and spend most of the time playing piano. Or else enlist a pianist and buy a fat collection of show tunes, so you can play the vocal line on the fiddle.
January 26, 2018, 7:31 AM · What a neat coincidence as I’ve been planning to do the same and am trying to put together a program too. Thanks for the good ideas...some pieces I’ve been thinking of doing are the Heifetz arrangement of Estrellita, and Jeannie with the light brown hair, maybe Elgar’s Salut D’Amour, and some Bach...
January 27, 2018, 12:56 PM · Thanks for the suggestions.
Andrew Victor, I'm sorry I didn't clarify. I know that it's not necessarily just older people at a nursing home, but at this particular one, it's mostly 75+.
Okay, so essentially, not very much classical, unless it's well-loved ones like Czardas, a bit of jazz (like Shostakovich?), some fiddle/folk, and a lot of broadway and themes from movies (like Schindler's List, etc?)?
Graeme Webster, I suppose that's right, too. Even people that don't generally like classical (or from whatever genre) still enjoy certain performances that come alive.
And musical tastes cannot always be judged simply by age. I guess I'm a prime example, since there's the stereotype that most teenagers don't like classical, and that's my favorite genre!

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