Posted by Beth Soltzberg
These words do not usually come to mind when thinking of life with a chronic, degenerative illness like Parkinson's disease (PD). But these are some of the words that the Tremble Clefs choral group, made up of people with Parkinson's and their care partners, chose to describe what singing together every week means to them. Singers held up signs with these and other inspiring words during their spring concert at JF&CS on May 19.
The Tremble Clefs choral group was created in 2006 by Marilyn and Dale Okonow and Nancy Mazonson as part of the Parkinson's Family Support program. The choral group's name comes from the signature "tremble" of Parkinson's disease and reflects the group's determination to face adversity with openness and creativity.
One of the words held up at the concert was "community." This aspect of the Tremble Clefs was vividly evoked by singer Priscilla Elliott's introduction to the concert. The concert was dedicated to her husband Clark Elliott, a longtime member of the Tremble Clefs who passed away in February. Priscilla described Clark's brief "escape" from the hospital to attend a Tremble Clefs concert in 2010, saying that participating in the concert was necessary for his emotional health. The audience shared a laugh as she explained that it was a challenge to get him into his concert attire with the hospital bracelet attached to his wrist, but that Clark was determined.
Recently, the Tremble Clefs has plunged into writing new lyrics to many songs. At the May 19 concert, singers sported t-shirts with one of these new lyrics, "music brings joy, and joy makes us strong." Parkinson's Family Support program director Nancy Mazonson says, "In addition to medical treatment, people need motivation, aspiration, and social connection to live well with chronic illness. Joy does make us strong; we need it." The audience, which included family members, health professionals from Greater Boston, and many JF&CS staff, certainly agreed that this concert brought joy. They gave the singers a standing ovation.
Beth Soltzberg, LCSW, MBA, coordinates Living with Chronic Illness, a program of Jewish Family & Children's Service encompassing support, education, and the arts. Beth's work includes facilitating caregiver support and education groups, and designing new offerings for families affected by Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Beth earned her MSW and MBA from the University of Chicago and a certificate in end-of-life care from the Smith College School of Social Work. She holds an advanced credential in hospice and palliative care social work.