Let the rest of the world go by

“We’ll find perfect peace, where joys never cease – somewhere beneath the starry sky,” we sing every Friday morning, “We’ll build a sweet little nest somewhere in the west, and let the rest of the world go by.” (Let the Rest of the World Go By, lyricist, J. Keirn Brennan)

It does feel like the community we have built at Grace Notes Community Choir over the past two and a half years has nested in a cozy spot. First we met together at The Meadows Independent Living at Morningside Manor, and since April 2020, we have met together almost every week on Zoom. What originally we assumed might be a few weeks of meeting virtually has turned into almost a year, but we are grateful to have each other.

Social isolation has been a major mental health casualty of COVID-19 for people living with dementia and their care partners. Grace Notes has been a respite during this pandemic, and group members rarely miss a meeting.

Mike, a care partner, and his wife of 37 years, Sharon, joined Grace Notes after the group began meeting virtually. “Grace Notes Choir brings some degree of normality, fun, laughter, fellowship, and happiness for both of us every Friday morning,” Mike writes. “It gives us both, especially me, something good to look forward to; with a little bit of respite for both of us, while we sing together. Occasionally, we both hum along on our kazoos!”

Since music is processed globally in the brain, music perception and ability are maintained to some extent well into the dementia process. Mike shares that even when Sharon is not yet in the mood to sing along, she still taps her feet to the music. According to board-certified music therapist and choir director Amy Standridge, musical engagement stimulates the brain and can improve mood, memory, and connection to others. Even a simple, reflexive act like toe-tapping to music strengthens the anterior tibialis muscle essential for picking up your feet as you walk. The longer a person with dementia is able to walk, the longer the person maintains a good quality of life.

Music has been used in every ancient culture known to man as a communication tool, a form of aesthetic beauty, and a community-builder. Music therapists use their understanding of music to address non-musical goals including improved mobility, cognition, communication, and social interaction. Grace Notes Community Choir is a singing group and not a therapy group, but we see improved mood and sense of connection every week. We are a family.

“But I’ve never sung in a choir,” you might say to yourself. It sounds intimidating! Neither had Mike and Sharon or many of our group members. Our current Zoom format means that only the choir director can be heard at one time, so the singer feels like they are just singing along with the choir leader. They can see the other singers’ faces, but the singers also can’t hear each other. As far as anyone knows, nobody sings off-key. It’s a very non-threatening way to experience choral singing.

During a time where we have all experienced physical losses, losses of livelihood, or losses of community and companionship, meeting together for choir, even via Zoom, has meant connection and joy for its members, leaders, and volunteers. We meet every Friday via Zoom from 10:30 to 11:45, with time built in for social interaction. No choral experience is necessary, and our repertoire includes mostly well-known songs and some new material to keep our brains in shape. Come on in and join the choir!

To learn more click here:  https://mailchi.mp/2665e6291e4e/gracenotescommunitychoir

Story written by Music Therapist Amy Standridge, MM, MT-BC

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