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"I'd continue even if only for one person; my dad."

Juggling care for an elderly parent with a zest for making music with the community--heartfelt motivation for a busy lady.

What will be the legacy of longtime choral director Criselda Mierau? Running successful mixed voice adult choirs in St. Albert for three-plus decades, plus a musical theatre troupe, plus children's choirs? Yes, all that, but even more, making music for/with her dad and being a loving daughter. "Creating memories, living a life...this is what dad's aging and my caregiving is teaching me. Only love matters and only love remains."

 When Criselda Mierau left her 31-year career at the helm of the St. Albert Singers Guild at the end of last season, she might've thought she'd have more time on her hands: but no such luck. At age 59, the whirling dervish is as busy as ever (maybe even busier), as she starts up a new choir (or two), co-writes and stages a play, and continues to care for her 85-year-old father Eric who lives with her, even as his growing health issues put stressful decisions about care on the family's front burner.

"He is one of the big reasons I decided to jump right back into the arts (in particular a choir) this year since he loves singing in my choirs," she said. "Music has always affected and shaped my dad.  It is a big part of his well-being. But being a caregiver for an aging parent is a journey, and changes sneak up on you over time and then all of a sudden you're on the road to becoming your parent's parent."

It's something many grapple with at middle age, the so-called 'sandwich generation' of those caring for aging parents and their own children. Even though her daughter is now grown, Mierau's other 'children' include her 15-year-old Acting Out Musical Theatre (AOMT), and two new mixed choirs, (So Noted! and Forte Plus), which she describes as "crazy new ventures--liberating and energizing, but also exhausting and daunting."

Mierau credits husband Bart, daughter Katya (and her partner Drewe) with support and help. "We're all in it together; it's not just me the daughter, but rather, we the family. But even though dad recently allowed us to have a cleaning lady for his part of the house, I still have daughter's guilt. If I'm working at home, I think, 'Why aren't I cleaning his living area--I'm right here?"

In fact, Mierau bought her west-end Edmonton home over 30 years ago with her parents in mind, a single-level area they could call their own but still be connected to their only child, and a spot Mierau's mom remained until her care needs became too great. "Mom went downhill dramatically after we put her in long-term care, so I don't want dad to go if he doesn't have to. But it's a reality we face--that day will come."

Mierau says her dad has slowed down considerably in the last couple of years, and his short-term memory is, "swiftly departing. We give him meals, meds, take him on outings, buy his groceries, puzzles, books and take him to all appointments. Somehow, that makes me at my age, want to speed up. I will not go gently into that good night.  I wish to keep going, living, giving, to keep being a part of a community."  
Though she thought she might get 20 people to join, the highly-regarded Mierau quickly signed up over 80 people for her two new St. Albert-based choral programs: a Monday evening mixed choir and a Wednesday afternoon drop-in group. And then there's a fall performance from AOMT: a 40s-style radio mystery called The Hammet Hawk (written by Mierau and daughter Katya), which will include songs from the new choir, snacks and a signature drink; even a roving magician entertaining theatre-goers between scenes. 
"My barreling forward since my youth is what got me here. It was a great past and I have a ton of wonderful memories," she said, admitting though she and Bart love to hike, she sometimes feels her age: osteoarthritis can now get the best of her some days. "And though the amount of work that is going into my new programming is crazy, it's also fulfilling.  I think if I retired too early in my life, I'd be bored."
Eric (who was the initial impetus to get a new choir going) will be part of it--that is a given--as he's still mobile and can sing and read music, no problem. And his male voice is needed, adds Mierau, as are more bass and tenor voices looking to join the Monday night choir.  
"As for me, I simply wish to walk quickly and catch my breath when necessary!  Dad understands my need to 'live' and encourages me to continue my work as a conductor, artistic director and 'affector' of lives around me. I am still making music and building community; creating a safe space for people to grow and sing with goodwill, humour and joy. That makes me happy."
See details on performances or joining the choirs at