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Posted February 5, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Couple bring concerts to retirement community

Bob and Cari Sherwood
Bob and Cari Sherwood, residents of Westminster-Canterbury in Winchester are organizing concerts at the facility. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Hot Club Millwood
Hot Club Millwood performs at Westminster-Canterbury recently. Courtesy photo

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By Josette Keelor -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the bistro at Westminster-Canterbury retirement community north of Winchester, was almost empty, but on the third Friday of each month, it is teeming with activity as residents and visitors gather to listen to music reverberate off the walls of the airy room.

In an attempt to add to the already admirable quality of music in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, Bob and Cari Sherwood, residents of Westminster-Canterbury, have organized the Sounds of Grace series. They are preparing for the next concert, on Feb. 20, when Nora Suggs and John Arnold will entertain guests with classical flute and guitar music.

"There's so much good music here in the valley -- lots of fine musicians ... and we'd like to give them another additional venue [where they can perform]," Sherwood says.

Sherwood, 71, and his wife, 64, became residents at Westminster-Canterbury about a year ago.

"The concert series is new here, although there's been music over time," Sherwood says.

"The residents want to have a variety of entertainment, so we try to vary that," his wife says.

Musical performances at Westminster-Canterbury have taken place in other rooms of the main building, Lawrence Hall.

"When we came in ... we noticed right away the acoustics in those rooms were pretty poor," Sherwood says.

"I'm just always listening to the acoustics," he says, explaining that both he and Mrs. Sherwood have a background in music. It did not take long after the couple moved into their apartment in Lawrence Hall until they noticed the benefits the bistro offered for musical performances.

The series is a reincarnation of one that drew musical groups to Grace Episcopal Church in Berryville. Again, the series there was inspired by the acoustics of the church's parish hall.

"The ceiling timbers were excellent," Sherwood says, later adding he "thought what a shame to waste the acoustic properties."

When he and his wife moved to Westminster-Canterbury, they were very conscious of the concert series they were still running in Berryville, and that allowed them to so readily notice the acoustical qualities of the bistro. The room was ideal for a musical setting, Sherwood says, because already residents and visitors were noticing how sound traveled around the room. Some people had begun complaining about the noise level, he says.

"We could turn adversity into a real plus, if we were listening to music in here," he says, later adding that so far musicians who have performed in the bistro have been pleased with the sound quality of the room.

"By the end of the concert those guys were just beaming," Sherwood says of members of the Hot Club Millwood, who performed in January.

The first concert, in December, brought 53 audience members, which Sherwood says is a really good response, especially considering that, for the first time, residents had to pay to attend an event.

The cost of each concert in the series is $10, which catches some people off guard.

"This is the only thing that residents have to pay to attend," says Laura Hager, resident concierge and activities director at Westminster-Canterbury.

Other musical events at Lawrence Hall are free to residents, she says.

Another way the Sounds of Grace series brings change to Westminster-Canterbury is that it has brought in visitors from the community.

"The concept of opening it to the public is new," Sherwood says. "It changes your perception of a retirement community or a nursing home."

"The series is intended also to serve as a fundraiser for the Fellowship Fund," he says. A portion of the proceeds of each Friday night concert goes to the Fellowship Fund at Westminster-Canterbury, which helps residents who are having financial difficulties. This has been especially important in recent months with retirement funds being in question.

"If a resident's savings has evaporated ... this is intended to keep them here," Sherwood says.

"The Fellowship Fund is really important to everyone living in Westminster-Canterbury," says Mrs. Sherwood. "They do everything they can to keep people living here with a good quality of life."

Though the series is new to Winchester, Sherwood says he already has musical groups booked through September and tentatively written in through next spring. Those who knew about the series in Berryville have been contacting him to add their names to the schedule of performances, even after they learn that the Sherwoods now coordinate acts for only the Winchester venue.

"People would hear about the series and they would call us," he says. He has never had to advertise, word of mouth traveling as far away as New York and Alabama.

"This is another opportunity to get the caliber [musicians]" to Westminster-Canterbury, Hager says.

"What we've found here ... is the audience is really listening to them and is knowledgeable and is really paying attention," Sherwood says.

After only two concerts, he says, the series has brought familiar music to members of the retirement community. Last month, the Hot Club Millwood quintet played European jazz music of the 1920s and '30s, featuring Django Reinhardt's gypsy jazz from Paris. Some residents remember having heard Reinhardt's music in person in France during World War II, Sherwood says, which made the concert more special for them.

Some residents here have musical background, Mrs. Sherwood says. By offering the monthly concerts, "You're tapping into a wealth of knowledge and appreciation," she says.

The Sounds of Grace series will continue on Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the bistro at Westminster-Canterbury, at 300 Westminster-Canterbury Drive in Winchester. Nora Suggs and John Arnold will perform classical flute and guitar music. For more information or for directions call 665-0156. Tickets are $10 at the door.

* Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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