Published : Thursday, May 10, 2018 | 7:06 PM
Music evokes memories. Often, when someone hears or sings a song, they are instantly transformed to a time and place in the past where they first heard it.
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia are no different. Studies show that music still reaches them and Front Porch retirement community, Villa Gardens in Pasadena, attempts to unite its residents through music with its Joyful Hearts Chorus, which is performing its “Spring Sing” on Wednesday, May 23 at 7:15 p.m at the community’s location on 842 E. Villa St. in Pasadena.
Joyful Hearts Chorus started as a pilot project a year ago and has three concerts this year—so far. Bonnie Stover, the Director of Volunteer Services at Front Porch, called the experience of working with the chorus “magical” for both her and the residents. She said of the idea, “For people with dementia, it becomes harder and harder for their friends and families to do things with them. It’s difficult to even have a conversation, but one of the things we do know is that music resides in the brain and stays there forever, no matter what else happens. I wanted to experiment with this, and see just how that would work.”
Volunteers were recruited from residents. It was a chance for those involved to be able to spend time with friends they had lost contact with and an opportunity for the group to find something that they could do that would be fun, interactive and could work toward as a goal by eventually having a performance.
The results were astounding.
“Once they started singing, it’s like a switch flipped. We provided songbooks for them, but they didn’t even need them. They remembered the words; they remembered the music. They get excited, and we moved very quickly through the music, from one song to the next song to the next,” she said.
“Occasionally, there’s a story that will come up around the songs for a resident who will say, ‘Oh I remember when so-and-so and I was hearing this music or I was singing this music.’ We have a mother-daughter team that happened with. The daughter really thought knew everything there was to know about her mother, and one song triggered a memory for the mother that the daughter had never heard.”
Within three months of its first meeting, the group was ready for its inaugural performance. “Then they were ready again at Christmas time for another, and now we’re getting ready for our third performance,” Stover said.
Joyful Hearts Chorus works with all different kinds of music, and its members seem to gravitate to a wide variety of genres. They change up their setlist with every performance to keep it from becoming stale.
Performances are about 30 minutes long and are often standing room only. “The whole community has really embraced their performances, and they all come. I do encourage them to sing along so that the group experiences that success and gets to see the looks on the faces of the audience,” Stover said.
The “Spring Sing” will include a social after the performance.