Posted by Jon Federman
“The energy in the room was palpable and grew from the start to the finish of the rehearsal. Members became more animated with each song and some who were lethargic before the rehearsal left the room with a new bounce in their step,” noted Cora MacDonald, a volunteer with the new JF&CS Tremble Clefs Summer Sings program.
Launched in 2009, JF&CS Tremble Clefs is a therapeutic singing group for people with Parkinson’s disease and their care partners. The program was created in collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Speech, Language, and Swallowing Disorders and MGH Partners Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center. The goal of the group is to address voice and communication problems through breathing, stretching and posture activities, vocal exercise, rhythm and movement, as well as to create a strong social support system. .
The group, which meets weekly during the fall, winter, and spring, is led by volunteer conductor Marilyn Okonow and accompanied by pianist Joe Reid. The group has been so successful that participants expressed the desire to continue meeting over the summer – despite the challenges of summer schedules -- in order to maintain both their social bonds as well as their vocal quality.
As a result, the first Summer Sings program of the JF&CS Tremble Clefs was born. Sessions were held once a month, in June, July, and August. Summer sessions differed from the winter ones in that they were led by pianist Joe Reid and followed by lunch provided by the JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support program. The sessions were also less structured than the winter ones, with participants requesting and voting for songs. The informal structure enabled participants to share their favorite music and “ham it up” a bit, with everything from Ethel Merman imitations to an energetic “Annie Get Your Gun” medley. Clearly, these participants were “doin’ what comes naturally” and they proved that “there’s no business like show business.”
Summer Sings participants offered only positive things to say about the program. They enjoyed the change of pace offered by the relaxed summer program but also expressed that they were eager to work with their conductor again and get back to the more structured weekly routine.
“Summer can be a challenging time,” she said, “with programs suspended and routines upended, but these sings give members the chance to gather and harmonize and visitors the chance to check out what Tremble Clefs is all about.
“I love how the different personalities of the group shine through during particular songs and our accompanist, Joe, did a fabulous job encouraging the group to throw individual emotion into the songs. You never know what you’re going to learn about someone in the group while singing a new number,” added MacDonald.
Jon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.