The Senior Center’s Choral Group can continue to sing religious hymns during performances following a ruling by the town’s attorney.
“Based upon a concern expressed by a member of the Plainville Senior Center Choral Group, the Committee on Aging reviewed their longstanding practice regarding religious hymns being sung during their performances. After conferring with the town attorney, the new practice that was adopted will allow for religious hymns to be sung if it fit the theme of the program,” Town Manager Robert Lee said during the Sept. 16 Town Council meeting.
The Senior Center singers’ 2019-20 season began this month.
Shawn Cohen, the center’s director, said at the end of the group’s season last spring she received some questions from members about whether it was appropriate for a town-sponsored group to perform religious songs.
“I had gotten some questions from members of the choral group that we were doing hymns each time,” she said. “Because we’re the Town of Plainville we have to be very careful of whatever we do to make sure we’re not breaking a law or anything.”
During the Aug. 19 Town Council meeting, resident David Spencer said a decision to prohibit hymns would amount to censorship and asked why the process was not more transparent.
The ruling, which was announced at the Sept. 3 Commission on Aging meeting, stipulates that if the group allows hymns, it cannot prohibit performances from any religion, and that the hymns match the theme chosen for the group’s performances.
Also, there is a new rule that soloists are limited to one song per-performance. Cohen said the guideline was adopted to allow more singers to shine.
“I think it’s been fairly well-received actually,” she said. “Again, just trying to make sure that keeps everything fair.”
The Senior Center singers perform at local nursing homes, putting on as many as three shows a month. The group has 15 to 20 active members.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. Just a wonderful kind of volunteerism,” Cohen said. “It brings a lot of joy to people. It really, really does.”