Last Thursday I went to a Parkinson's singing and voice group that is hosted locally by the wonderful RZ, a professional singer accompanied on piano by her husband MG. The group is attended by several people from my Conductive Education Parkinson's exercise group and from my Counterpunch Parkinson's classes.
On the day I attended there were 17 or 18 people sitting in RZ's living room -- and I am told that several were missing -- I'd like to think that it wasn't the thought of listening to me sing that kept them away... This photo doesn't do justice to the wonderful site of two rows of people - two rows of people with Parkinson's and some of their husbands or wives smiling, laughing, chatting, sitting up straight (and sometimes standing), and of course, singing.
I enjoyed taking part in the singing and I enjoyed being in a room full of people singing -- and for the rest of the day I had songs in my head, a smile on my face, and a song in my heart. Actually I still feel that song singing in my heart every time I think about the experience.
There certainly are physiological benefits of singing and voice work for people with Parkinson's -- improvements in speech and voice control, articulation, volume, facial expressions, breathing, and posture -- but these almost seem like a side effect to the psychosocial benefits of making of music and merriment, to the act of defiantly raising voices in song instead of being hushed by Parkinson's, to the positive mantras the singers were being encouraged to shout or sing when energy or volume started to lag offering messages that echoed and resonated well into the next song, to the way that singing together reaches in and touches people's souls and connects these souls to each other.
"I sing sometimes like my life is at stake, 'cause you're only as loud as the noises you make. And I'm learning to laugh as loud as I listen, 'cause silence is violence ... And we can make music like we can make do..." -- Ani DiFranco, My I.Q.
My heart sang from the experience of singing, not just with any people, but with this group of people. My heart sang from the experience of watching RZ passionately lead the group through song and voice work -- for the opportunity to sit at the feet of a master of her craft and to listen to her sing and to be a part of a group that she was running, and the sense of gratitude for the opportunity.
And, my heart sang with pride - for RZ is not just a wonderful singer and teacher, RZ is one of my Conductive Education students, a woman battling her own Parkinson's. My conductor's heart sang watching my participant in her orthofunctional glory standing in front of all of these other people teaching, giving, leading, conducting, encouraging, motivating, and singing. Thank you RZ, from the bottom of my heart for what you are doing for your singers, and for showing us all what it means to rise above, and to raise our voices in song.
Here are two of my favourite songs that make my heart sing, and here is to you and your singers RZ!