Singing was a big part of my life when I was growing up. It really began when my Mom took me to a series being held at the Paramount Theatre, here in Kelowna, where they were showing popular old time musicals from a generation gone by. I remember sitting in the theatre listening to the featured movie that night with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald.
I was awe struck as I sat by my Mom at the age of eight, listening to the incredible range and passion of their melodic voices.
I suppose the joy I felt was also mixed in with the fact that this was a week of outings that I shared by myself with my Mom, all other siblings having been left at home.
I loved music. I had begun teaching myself to play the piano in the year before this exposure to some of the classical singers of the ’30s and ’40s. After basking in this week-long foray, hearing voices I had never experienced, I felt driven to sit every night at the piano in our basement diligently practising for hours with Mom’s childhood music books on learning the piano.
Over the next year my natural musical ability found me playing well and advancing to much more difficult music. I began singing and playing from a song book of classics written in the ’30s. Jeanette’s voice ran in my ear, and an incredible energy welled up in my heart as I began to sing these torch songs from that golden era. I imagined myself becoming a great singer on the stage one day and singing became both a joy and a great solace through many difficult times that I experienced in my growing up years.
The memory of those many nights alone in the basement playing the piano and singing at the top of my lungs are embedded in the fabric of my growing up years. All the songs and the precious moments of music allowed me a form of expression of how I felt inside and became a part of my being that will be with me forever.
Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of meeting a man I consider inspirational. His name is Nigel Brown and he has spearheaded the Sing for Your Life Foundation, B.C., based here in Kelowna.
His passion for giving was well honed as the founder of the Make A Wish Foundation, one I am sure you are all very familiar with. He has brought his genuine desire to make a difference in people’s lives to help improve the health and wellbeing of older people through music.
Through holding 90 minute gatherings in our community, called Silver Song Clubs, seniors are joined together with a facilitator in participatory singing and music-making. They are given the opportunity to experience the well documented evidence that these groups provide distinct wellness benefits, helping seniors be healthier through improved respiratory function and circulation, as well as from becoming more engaged and less isolated.
The groups are offered free of charge to area seniors, with one held on the Westside and two others in Kelowna. Family or professional caregivers are always welcome. Go to the Sing For Your Life website to view the 2014-2015 schedule and find out more information at www.singforyourlife-canada.org or just call 250-860-5408. They’d love to talk to you.
Sing For Your Life has taken the initiative to bring the celebrated documentary Alive Inside, winner of the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, to Kelowna as a fundraiser for the foundation’s good work. This full-length movie follows social worker Dan Cohen as he attends to nursing home residents suffering from dementia, using music to help them re-engage and re-connect. He watches as their faces transform with joy as he plays their favourite songs from the past through headphones and feels the music connect their spirit to him and to pleasures that have long been forgotten. A magical band of love and dreams is felt in this joining, and the power of it is unmistakeable.
I experience this myself as I sit with my Mom, now in residential care, and begin to sing some of the songs we used to all belt out in unison as our family sat around the campfire many summer nights at my grandparent’s lakeside cottage. Being a horse gal, Strawberry Roan is her favourite and she joins in with me as I sing, remembering many of the words despite not knowing what she did half an hour before. The smile and the light in her eyes warms my heart in a shared moment once again, just like when I took her hand in the movie theatre many years ago as I basked in the melodic wonder of Jeanette and Eddy, harmonizing their incredible voices together on the big screen.
Please support this fundraiser by attending the screening of this show that will surely bring tears to your eyes, on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre on Bernard Avenue. It is described by Kent Youngson, PhD as “Equal parts of heartbreaking and joyful—showing the true power that music has on the human psyche.” Fantastic film!
I will be there with my sister and my Mom’s two private caregivers so that we can all learn from Dan’s mission to make a difference in the lives of those with dementia. I hope to share in this experience with many other family members of older parents or those involved in elder care to be inspired by its message.
Watch a trailer at www.singforlife-canada.org and then buy your tickets and help make a difference in the life of someone you care for in our community.