OAKHURST – Gentle voices, simple songs, and sincere kindness with calm, focused bedside attention can bring ease and comfort to the dying, say organizers of Threshold Choir, a compassionate network of primarily women’s a cappella choirs whose members lift their voices in song for people in hospice and for others at the thresholds of life. An Oakhurst chapter is now forming, with plans to meet in the new year; organizers are seeking interested singers to join.
The first Threshold Choir was founded by Kate Munger, who said the seed was planted when she sang for a friend who lay in a coma dying of HIV/AIDS. Kate’s epiphany came after observing how her singing gave comfort to them both. Years later she began singing for animals that had been killed on the road, and the same essence of comfort arose each time she stopped her car to carry her voice.
These two somewhat unusual instances of inspiration came together when the inaugural Threshold Choir gathering took place in March of 2000. About 15 women were present that day in El Cerrito, California. Now, just a decade and a half later, chapters are active in San Francisco, Sonoma County, Santa Cruz, Bolinas and elsewhere, while others are in the process of being formed the world over. Many of the original members of that El Cerrito group are still singing, and while Kate retired in 2014, her choirs live on to comfort the sick and dying.
In the year to come, Oakhurst resident Barbara Liss and friend Judy Ball are forming a Threshold Choir chapter in the foothills.
“Threshold Choir is a national non-profit organization of primarily women’s a cappella harmony voices joined in song to sing at the bedsides of the seriously ill and dying,” explains Barbara. “Any woman who can carry a tune is invited, regardless of whether she is able to read music. This is not a ‘performing’ choir, it’s a service choir. We usually go in small groups of three or four to hospitals, hospices and homes, when invited, to sing at bedsides as a gift of the heart.”
Barbara says there is no charge for this gift of song. The choir sings songs of healing that are practiced together at regularly scheduled group gatherings.
“Some of our members elect to attend only the practice meetings, to learn and enjoy the music as well as the sisterhood,” continues Barbara, speaking of the meetings that are usually held twice a month. “Other members become bedside singers and are ‘on call’ to respond to requests for bedside singing.”
Because the foothills chapter is currently in the process of formation, Barbara says they are not yet ready to take bedside singing requests, but anticipate being ready to do so within six months to a year. Judy Ball brings music director experience and Barbara helps with administrative start-up tasks. The organizational format of Threshold Choir chapters is informal, Barbara adds, and members take on various responsibilities, both administratively and musically.
“The first meeting is at my home on Saturday, Jan. 16 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and there is a larger gathering being planned for April 16, 2016. A location for the larger gathering has not yet been determined, but an announcement will be forthcoming as soon as we find a suitable place.” Threshold Choir founder Kate Munger will attend the spring event.
If you have questions or would like more information, contact Barbara Liss by phone (559) 641-5591 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.