Music, Arts and Culture

January 10, 2016


“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Pablo Picasso got it right when it comes to art’s effect on our lives. But while we’ve all had opportunities to seek out the arts, how often have performances come into your home?

With near-constant music, cultural, and fine arts programming on tap, that kind of Spirited Living is a reality for Rydal Park residents.

Rydal Park hosts a performance every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The auditorium has welcomed a variety of live entertainment from Jenkintown Music Theater and the Keystone State Boychoir to the Metropolitan Ballet, Orpheus Club, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

As Programs Chairwoman of the Entertainment and Activities Committee, MM (“Em Em”) Harris is uniquely familiar with Rydal Park’s events calendar. MM oversees more than 50 performances a year at Rydal Park, from finding and booking acts to negotiating contracts, making sure the stage is set up, greeting the performers, and seeing that they’re compensated.

“I try to keep in mind that there are a lot of different preferences among the residents,” she says. “Some prefer classical to jazz. Some like guitar, others enjoy harp music. Then there’s the Great American Songbook, which we all love. So I have an enormous variety to work with.”

With so many responsibilities to juggle, MM is happy to delegate quality control, “The actual booking requires one person, and I do that. But the committee evaluates every single performer and every program, and that guides me. If we feel like it wasn’t up to par, then I don’t secure those acts again.”

She’s also glad to have the assistance of her husband, Herb, who, between serving terms as President and Treasurer of the Resident’s Council, still finds time to help answer the phone, take messages, and even drive to pick up artists. “After 61 years of marriage,” Herb laughs, “we’ve learned how to live and work together.”

Volunteerism comes naturally to the couple. As MM puts it, “We’re the generation that volunteered our entire lives. So you ran the household and took care of the children, but you also ran big things in the community.” But given how these performances benefit Rydal Park residents – not to mention her deep personal satisfaction in arranging them – MM finds her considerable effort worth it in the end.

“Seeing and hearing a musical performance live, in person, is entirely different from watching a show on TV or listening to a CD. This world-class programming adds to our social environment here – it’s energizing, vibrant, and a true treat!”

Many Rydal Park residents give back to the community, but with an insider’s view of the joy and inspiration residents experience at these performances, none are happier to do so than MM and Herb Harris.