TACOMA – While the members of Joyful Sound told jokes and played folk music, residents at Alaska Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center laughed, clapped and sang along to old familiar tunes.
The traveling music ministry, based at Visitation Parish in Tacoma, has been playing such gigs at nursing homes and long-term health care facilities for 26 years.
“What motivated us to start the group was that the folks are so appreciative,” said Robin Rego, who created the sing-along ministry with his wife Linda in 1988. “Some of the residents have no one come visit, not even family,” said Rego, explaining that he uses music to bring Christ to others for “God’s greater glory.”
The core of the Joyful Sound group comes from Visitation Parish, but the 25-member ensemble includes musicians and singers from other Tacoma parishes, including St. Patrick and St. Rita of Cascia, as well as non-Catholics. “We are open to anyone who wants to make someone’s day better,” said Gary Pinnell, a Visitation parishioner and choir member, who took over the group’s leadership when Rego recently moved to Kennewick.
Joyful Sound leader Gary Pinnell, left, plays guitar along with Robin Rego. Rego founded the group in 1988 at Tacoma’s Visitation Parish to bring joy to residents in nursing and care facilities. Photo: Courtesy Visitation Parish
Performing twice a month, Joyful Sound visits eight facilities in Tacoma and Puyallup on a rotating schedule. “I just wish we could get back to them sooner than once or twice a year,” Pinnell said.
The group’s motto is “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” — a quote from poet and author Berthold Auerbach. Their repertoire, which spans decades, includes songs ranging from “The Old Rugged Cross” to “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Each performance begins with a group member telling jokes while instruments are tuned. Once, a man in the audience got up and regaled the crowd with jokes of his own.
Even though its founders have moved on, the group keeps going, Pinnell said, because “it is such a joy to make people smile.”
Update: Joyful Sound previously visited about 20 facilities on a rotating basis, as this article originally stated. The group now performs at eight facilities.