Stories of Memory Loss

I’m very glad to have our Music Director Nancy Holland as a guest blogger this week:

When I chose to perform Alzheimer’s Stories by Robert Cohen, (because I found the music and lyrics so moving)  I had no idea how personally significant it would be for many of our choir members.   This Sunday, three choir members will speak about their own experiences with Alzheimer’s, how it affected their parents and therefore themselves.  Lindsey Black, Julia NIzinski, and Cynthia Toussaint will share glimpses into their lives, the heart-wrenching poignant moments, as well as some of the bizarre humor of the disease.

In rehearsing the work for chorus and orchestra, the choir has encountered many poignant, moving moments ourselves.  We ache for Dr. Alzheimer’s first patient, Mrs. Auguste Deter, as she forgets that she has children, let alone their names. We laugh with the father who sings a hornpipe dance about his days in the Navy. We tearfully encounter the mom who thinks she’s on a boat to Panama.  “These are how the pieces of a life were lost. Love and compassion repair every loss.”  Many times during rehearsal I would look up and a choir member would be moved to tears.

The music itself is beautiful and harmonious in places, raucous and confusing in others, just like the disease itself.  The last movement sums up the beauty that emerges from the stories:

Find those you love in the dark and light.
(It was brief, but she knew me: she looked at me and knew me.)
Help them through the days and nights.
(As he died, his arm lifted and his fingers looked like dancing.)

Keep faith. They sense what they cannot show.
Love and music are the last thing to go. Sing anything.

For those of you struggling with aging parents, we will have representatives of several organizations available after the concert to give you information and support: the Alzheimer’s Association, Nizinski Hypnotherapy, and Helping Hands Senior Foundation.

During the service in the morning, Music Mends Minds’ Jazzanova Band will be playing.  Music Mends Minds (MMM) is a nonprofit that creates musical support groups for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and PTSD. These musical support groups foster a community between the musicians and singers, as well as their families, friends, and caregivers, all of whom thrive on the socialization and music making. MMM also aims to educate our community and public about the latest scientific findings regarding the benefits of music and brain through several platforms including online and in print resources.