Beaverton Sing Here Now Choir
Southminster Presbyterian Church
12250 SW Denney Road
Beaverton, OR 97008
Photo courtesy of Sale Communications and Images, LLC.
About Sing Here Now
The Sing Here Now Choir was created in the spring of 2011 as a collaborative effort between the Alzheimer’s Association – Oregon Chapter and Earthtones Music Therapy Services. The intention is to provide a natural, social, and therapeutic atmosphere for persons in the early-stages of Alzheimer’s disease and their care partners.
On June 7th, 2012, the Sing Here Now choir participated in "The Song Is Us," a combined performance with three other community choirs at Tabor Space in SE Portland.
The accompanying video is a portrait of the individuals who contributed to this performance. It is a testimony to the power of music as a creative and expressive outlet, the value of a community, and the courage of the individuals who lifted their voices to challenge public perception of what it means to be living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Reflections from Sing Here Now
by Chris Nelson
I spent several weeks in the office calling people with early memory loss and their families, trying to recruit members for this first-ever choir of its kind. Some people seemed skeptical, while others seemed open to the idea but had no interest in music. But after distributing flyers, sending emails, and talking with many people on the phone and in person, I was able to assemble a group of about a dozen, most of whom are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. The rest of the group is composed of caregivers and family members.
The first meeting arrived a few Wednesdays ago. I arrived an hour early to set up the room, assemble the notebooks, and make sure I had name tags for everyone. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if the people I had recruited would actually show up. Jodi, the owner of Earthtones Music Therapy Services, introduced me to Katy and Maggie, music therapists who would serve as the musical facilitators of the choir. We were all excited and fidgety, not knowing what was about to happen. We put the first few songs in the notebooks, they tuned up their guitars, and we waited. I looked out the choir room window at a perfectly sunny early fall day. About one o’clock, people started showing up: Nancy, Bernie, Patrick, Marilyn, Barbara, Jim, and Tonna. This was a good sign. My directions were actually correct. Then Leia arrived from a local residential community with Clarence, Jeri, and Edith. Shortly before we started, Gloria and her friend Dave rounded out the group.
Everyone was conversing pleasantly in a circle of chairs next to a piano. Then Jodi began with a drum chant: “I feel the rhythm in my feet…” I was amazed that everyone joined right in with no hesitation, no prompting. These people came ready to sing! After Jodi’s introduction, Maggie and Katie launched into an African chant with hand gestures, and again, the whole group was on board. If I remember, that first session included “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, and “Sing Your Way Home”. As I looked around and saw the participants clearly enjoying themselves, my fears and misgivings melted away.
Katy and Maggie have been magnificent in each session, including a period for each participant to share with the group some personal musical memories. So in addition to the group dynamic, there is also a decided emphasis on individual expression. As the weeks have gone by, SING HERE NOW has added songs such as “The Bell Doth Toll”, “Sally Gardens”, and “I Love You Truly”. I have been astonished at the variety of offerings Maggie and Katy bring each week, incorporating breathing exercises, call and response chants, folk music, participant-chosen music, as well as reserving a time to learn parts as a traditional choir does. The sessions are 90 minutes with a short break in the middle. So far, everyone involved has been very energized by the sessions, and the hour and a half goes by much too quickly.
We received some exciting news recently that SING HERE NOW has been invited to participate in a benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association at the Hillsboro United Methodist Church in December. So with a few sessions under our belts, the members of SING HERE NOW are enjoying themselves greatly, making music together as well as enjoying each other’s company, and looking forward to singing and performing in the weeks to come. I couldn’t have really asked for more.
Sing Here Now is a joint venture between the Alzheimer's Association Oregon Chapter and Earthtones Music Therapy Services. All rights reserved. Please do not reappropriate our marketing materials or photos without explicit permission. Please do not reappropriate the likenesses of Sing Here Now participants in any manner.