Giving Space to Giving Voice

On Sunday, June 4, Concordia University was host to the Giving Voice Chorus-Saint Paul®.  The Giving Voice Initiative (GVI) inspires and equips organizations around the world to build choruses that bring joy, well-being, purpose, and community understanding to people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners. The only organization of its kind, GVI is triggering a movement to build choral music communities that celebrate the potential of people living with dementia.

Those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, both the individuals and their companions, often tend to become isolated and out of touch with any social network.  Singing is proving to be a remarkably effective way to build community among both the individuals affected by the condition and their care partners.  Those who participate in the chorus generally are still living in their homes, but may find it difficult to find places where others share their unique challenges and hopes, and share them in a constructive context.  Music fosters that constructive environment and brings people together.  Often songs are evocative in that they come from not only the mind but also the heart and the spirit.  Most of us associate certain songs with various times in our lives, and those with Alzheimer’s are no exception.

The chorus, under the direction of Ms. Jeanie Brindley-Barnett, presented a dozen familiar folk songs collected under the theme This Land is Your Land.  They chug, chug, chugged through This Train is Bound for Glory, whistled out Red River Valley, executed melodiously the memorable harmonies of California Dreamin’   by the Mamas and the Papas, and gently crooned the ballad Kisses Sweeter than Wine.  An individual with Alzheimer’s and a care partner introduced each number and recalled how it had touched their lives, for example through a meeting with the original artist, or a time when they were young and falling in love, or raising children, or participating in some great cause.  The large crowd of families and other loved ones applauded and cheered loudly at each offering and ended the afternoon with a standing ovation.

Long-time Concordia “family member” Emmy Treichel helped bring the chorus to our campus, reflecting on the time when she was a care partner with her beloved Herb who lived out his last days with Alzheimer’s.  CSP librarian Geruth Buetow is personally involved with the group.  Dr. David Mennicke as well as CSP’s crack Conference and Events staff were of great help in making the event a success.  We were delighted to give space to Giving Voice.

Such an event is but one example of the hundreds of ways Concordia University students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders are involved in civic engagement each year.  Attending to the needs of the university’s various communities has long been part of CSP’s makeup, whether those communities are in the neighborhood, the greater Twin Cities, outstate Minnesota, or local congregations and the church at large.  Scores of organizations and thousands of individuals are touched through the university each year.  It’s another reason CSP is a satisfying place to live and work.

Grace and peace.

Tom Ries

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