Ch.15 First Pat and then Ron Join a Memory Choir
First Pat Joins a Memory Choir.
August 2019. Several months ago, Pat and I attended a memory care conference in Eau Claire. We walked through the exhibitor booths and met an energetic and friendly woman named Cathy Reitz. Cathy is a retired music teacher who directs the Stand in the Light Memory Choir. Members of the choir all have memory loss issues or are with someone with memory loss or are volunteers who partner with memory loss participants. Cathy invited us to join the choir when it restarted in the fall. She then sent us a reminder before the first fall rehearsal.
Pat has an excellent soprano voice; she was a soloist in high school and sang with symphony orchestras, but she hadn’t been singing recently. She decided to go to the rehearsal. There, at a local church, we found about 40-50 participants, many of whom were repeaters from the year before. After coffee and treats everybody adjourned to the performance area and found places to sit or stand. Pat, being small, was assigned to sit in the second chair in the first row and was given a partner who sat next to her. I chose to watch rather than sing. I wanted Pat to have something that was hers and I wanted a chance to feel proud of her.
Wow! There Pat stood, talking animatedly with her volunteer partner. And another Wow! when the singing began Pat was smiling; she was reading the words easily; she was singing; most of all, she looked joyful. She was relaxed and spirited. And I did feel a sense of pride to see my wonderful wife enjoying life and feeling competent.
We’re going back next week for the second rehearsal.
Pat’s response to “Pat Joins a Memory Choir.”
I was a soloist in high school and I also took singing lessons from Madie Metzger-Ziegler who sang at times for orchestras in New York.
Ron chose to watch and sat attentive. And the lady next to me said he was very handsome. She specifically asked if he was my husband.
I knew several of the songs although they were arranged in specific ways, differently than I had seen before. I felt I was singing well and on key and I was enjoying myself. I was proud of singing in that choir. I can’t wait to go back.
Ron Joins the Stand in the Light Choir
January, 2020. We’ve written before about how living with Lewy Body has provided opportunities for new experiences. Last fall Pat joined the Stand in the Light Choir, whose membership includes people with dementia, their care partners, and volunteers. The volunteers help those with dementia stay organized, but my observation is that mostly they come to sing – and everyone in the choir seems to have a good voice. This choir is directed by Cathy Reitz, a singer herself who has the incredible ability to insist on quality while ensuring that people have a good time.
All fall I watched, thinking my most important job was to offer Pat support in this new endeavor. Pat steadily regained her voice (she had been a soloist in high school and sung with symphonic orchestras) and her confidence while I happily played the role of cheerleader. Meanwhile, Cathy suggested I too join the choir. I deferred, saying I wanted to stay in my cheerleader role until Pat didn’t need that anymore. Fact is, I was terrified of joining the choir. I have a mediocre voice, totally untrained, and I have never sung in front of anyone, not even my family. On the other hand, I could see how much fun the choir members were having, and I discovered that several volunteers had never sung before and had no musical training.
I decided to join after the Christmas break. But I was still scared. So, Pat took me to a music store where she located a beginner’s music book. Who knew, for instance, that singers naturally have two voices, one emanating from their chest and one from their face and throat? That little piece of information cleared up why I often started low and ended high, with a hearable crack in between. I’ve attended three rehearsals now and I’ve been practicing between rehearsals. I’m having fun and learning a great deal in an entirely new domain (which, as a bonus, is supposed to help a person maintain or improve brain function as they age.)
We’ve now reversed roles. Pat has become my cheerleader, helping me gain skill and confidence.
Lewy Body is still a tough disease. No choir can change that reality. However, Pat’s courage in facing her dementia while finding ways to enjoy life has widened both of our experiences.
Pat’s comments on Ron Joins the Stand in the Light Choir:
I’ve been delighted with Ron joining the Stand in the Light choir. He has by his own research already found many things his voice can do, and I am delighted hearing him sing. It would be correct to say that I am now his cheerleader – along with all the kids in our family – the Bergers, Keiths, and Potter-Efrons.