With fingers on the keys, and sheets of music open in front of her, Dr. Joy Berg is set to perform inside the memory and dementia care wing of Canterbury Foundation, a seniors care centre in West Edmonton.
Dr. Joy Berg is the Musical Director at Christ Church in Edmonton and she spends every Thursday at Canterbury Foundation thanks to the rector at Christ Church, Sue Oliver, who had the brilliant idea to gift Dr. Joy Berg’s services to Canterbury. As Musician of Residence at Canterbury, Dr. Berg is plays worship music in the chapel and the rest of the time, it is just about making music!
“This is a really neat day in my week. I am so proud of Christ Church for opening up this opportunity to bring the church and music in general into a community like this. And it very much is a community, says Joy.”
Today, Joys’ audience is a very sleepy and silent group of residents in large armchairs, tucked-in nice and cozy and sitting side-by-side in Canterbury Lane. Joy breaks into an upbeat version of Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue first recorded by the California Ramblers in 1925. It’s a lively, catchy and flapper-style song that makes you want to get up and dance!
As soon as the piano starts, eyes begin to open, heads begin to bop back and forth and then one of the residents starts to sing. Dr. Berg is now officially singing a lively duet with a woman named Maureen as they hit the chorus!
Five-foot two, eyes of blue,
But oh! What those five foot could do,
Has anybody seen my girl?
Turned-up nose, turned-down hose,
Flapper, yes sir, one of those,
Has anybody seen my girl?
Others start to come out of their rooms and join in! That’s the power of music!
“It is so evident at Canterbury, says Dr. Joy Berg. “I will start an older 1930’s war-time piece and Maureen will be singing with me, within a bar. And she knows all the words to every song. It is a marvellous thing to have her beautiful low voice. There is another lady in the Lane who has a very high voice. And she’ll get going along with us too. Another man conducts a lot and he was involved with bands. But he just feels the beat and the rhythm,” she laughs. “Music for sure brings out a very active part of that group of people in Canterbury Lane.”
“It makes such as difference for the residents,” confirms Nancy Small, a resident at Canterbury for the past 7 years. Her husband, Roderick Small, recently moved over into Canterbury Lane and is the lively enthusiastic gentleman who conducts and waves his arms to the beat as Dr. Berg plays every week.
“Roderick always played the bagpipes, playing in pipe bands and for numerous weddings and funerals. He really enjoyed playing. I enjoyed it too, just not so much in the basement,” jokes Nancy.
Nancy smiles as Roderick, age 89, waves his arms and mimics the movements of squeezing a pipe bag. She says music is his happy place and she is so thankful Canterbury values the gift of music and makes it such an integral part of programming at Canterbury.
Dr. Joy Berg, starts her day playing in worship under the guidance of Canterbury’s own Reverend Joanne Webster, before heading off to each living space at Canterbury. And church choir music is really her passion and where she is most comfortable.
“It’s a gift for me. To come into Canterbury means I get to come into their experience rather than have to always ask them to come into Christ Church’s experience,” says Joy.
When asked how she feels about having Dr. Joy Berg at Canterbury, Rev. Joanne Webster says, “In a word – wonderful. She brings so much life to our worship services. And the residents really connect with that. Before we were just using recorded music so this is much nicer and livelier. Many of the people who come to the Anglican services here at Canterbury, are part of Christ Church, so it feels like a bit of a homecoming to them,” says Rev. Joanne Webster.
Joy Berg is at Canterbury thanks to the vision of Reverend Susan Oliver from Christ Church. "We at Christ Church were looking for a way to support community outreach. I knew how much Joy Berg was loved in our own parish and I just thought she would be a great fit at Canterbury where we have many parishioners. Given what the seniors have been through especially this year with COVID, I just thought this would be a way to really support the seniors in our community. Having Joy there has been so well received," says Sue Oliver with Christ Church.
Dr. Joy Berg was born into a Lutheran family with very musical parents. She grew up singing with her brothers and learned 4 part harmony. She has always sung in choirs both with the church and professionally with Pro Coro. She has a doctorate of musical arts in choral conducting and just retired from teaching the past 21 years at Concordia College. She also had degrees in piano performance and learned the organ.
“She is just so accomplished,” says Rev. Joanne. “It just brings worship to a different level, so we are so grateful for this gift from Sue Oliver and Christ Church,” says Rev. Joanne Webster.
Dr. Berg says she feels so welcomed at Canterbury and loves taking part in the worship services at Canterbury.
“I love working with Joanne. She is so nurturing and honouring of the residents. It feels very collaborative and I love how she preaches and brings out the word to this group of people and even speaks to where I am in life too,” says Joy.
It’s a gift that has been a true blessing for all involved.
“Canterbury staff have been so welcoming and affirming and just wanting to be there, says Joy. “I love the way they treat the people here too that are coming in and it is just such a place of respect, and upholding whatever people have to give.