A GOOD AGE: New connections in the beat of a drum

Drumming circles are being offered at some South Shore community centers and provide a new type of connecting to others.The drumming circle at the Norwell Senior Center with Ed Sorrentino of the South Shore Conservatory gathers the third Friday of every month.

THE PATRIOT LEDGER – Eleanore “Ellie” McCann had never played a drum but when the opportunity arose, she thought “I’m not good at the piano . . . I’ll see what this is like.”

At 80, she was curious to try new experiences while she could and figured what did she have to lose?

More than a year later, McCann, 82, looks forward once a month to sitting in a circle at the Norwell Senior Center with Bobbie Kalb and Debbie McCabe, striking up rhythms on a West African drum called a djembe and shaking African gourds called shakeres and enjoying every minute of it.

“You’ve got it, Ellie!” Ed Sorrentino calls out as he leads the group.

Ed Sorrentino of Pembroke, a performer and music educator at South Shore Conservatory, leads a drumming circle at the Norwell Senior Center
Photo by Sue Scheible

Sorrentino, a Pembroke resident, is a performer and music educator with the South Shore Conservatory in Hingham. For several years, he has been making the rounds of local senior centers to invite people into his drumming circles. He has also led groups in Pembroke, Duxbury, Rockland and Scituate.

“It’s just so much fun,” McCann said last month, as the circle of four finished up drumming to the song “You Can’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” “It’s wonderful. You meet people and they might have some of the same problems you do and you can share that as well.”

Away from the senior center she has found herself drumming out beats on tables, including at her grandson’s wedding reception.

“It builds community,” Sorrentino said. “This music is all about laughing, making connections with people, creating music without rehearsal, recreational music. You can add whatever you want to the conversation, whenever you want, when you see it is a comfortable place to put it in there. You can see where your drum sound fits into the bigger picture.”

The Norwell drumming circle started more than a year ago as a weekly group; now it is monthly, meeting on the third Friday of the month at 11:30 a.m. at the senior center. More people are encouraged to drop by and try it, “just for the fun of it.” The next meeting will be April 19; there is no March meeting.

Ellie McCann, 82, is playing a handmade gourd rattle called a shakere. Ed Sorrentino of Pembroke, a performer and music educator with South Shore Conservatory, leads a drumming circle at Norwell Senior Center every month.
Photo by Sue Scheible

The term “drum circle” appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was applied to any group that informally played music together. The music was improvised as both self- and group-expression. The health benefits of drumming for seniors were cited as far back as the 1991 White House Conference on Aging and include reducing tension and anxiety, easing depression and stress; increasing energy and boosting the immune system; helping ease chronic pain; releasing negative feelings; fostering a sense of community. Playing the drums may also help the brain, limber up the joints and provide a sense of esteem.

Sorrentino will perform at the Duxbury campus of the South Shore Conservatory at 10:30 a.m., March 26, in the concert “Spotlight on Percussion” with Jesse Stiglich.

By Sue Scheible

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