A remarkable choir in which people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias sing and perform, together with their care partners
Creating Good Memories Every Week
The Good Memories Encore Chorale is Encore Illinois’s newest program, in which people with early-to-mid-stage Alzheimer’s and related dementias from the Chicago area rehearse and perform choral music together with their care partners. Good Memories targets persons with early- to mid-stage dementia who live outside of care facilities, a population for which the need for social contact and extended community is great.
Chorus members sing well-crafted 3-part arrangements with piano under the direction of an experienced, professional choral director. This rich cultural experience honors the musical experiences of everyone in the choir, allowing them to draw on their love of music as they participate in bringing it to life. For a care partner who wishes to have a break from care-giving while singing, a trained volunteer singer will assist the singer with dementia in negotiating both the musical material and the overall environment of rehearsal and performance. This bond between singer and volunteer helps to create the special community of the Good Memories Encore Chorale.
Rehearsals begin with 30 minutes of coffee, cookies, and socializing prior to the vocal warmup. This social time helps to create the warm, welcoming, and accepting environment that creates Good Memories.
Couples dealing with dementia often find that this choir is the central event of their week. Singing in the choir becomes an exciting thing to which they can look forward (“It’s like going on a date!”). Because both are participating and enjoying the experience of the choir, they are able to have an experience that recalls and draws on a rich history of earlier years of enjoying many things together. In addition, the brains of people with demential typically “wake up” after 30 minutes of musical activity, creating a higher level of mental clarity and awareness that enhances everyone’s experience. Indeed, as so many participants have observed, once the rehearsal gets going, one can’t really tell who has dementia and who doesn’t. This phenomenon goes a long way toward enhancing everyone’s quality of life; it also helps to create new good memories.
When, Where, Who?
When and where will the choir take place?
Encore’s plan is to launch the first Good Memories choir in September 2018, on the Gold Coast in Chicago, with rehearsals on weekday mornings once a week. Exact time of week and location are to be determined. As with all Encore choirs, a free public performance will serve as a culminating celebration of the many weeks of rehearsal—a joyous occasion for the whole community supporting people with dementia.
This sounds so great! Why aren’t you launching sooner?
Good Memories is a resource-heavy program. In order to serve people with dementia properly, the personnel includes not only the music director and pianist but also a program manager, volunteer coordinator, at least a dozen volunteers at each rehearsal, and support staff. We are taking the time to line up the resources—finances, people, community partners, volunteers, and more—to ensure that our launch is successful.
People register for Good Memories in pairs. As with our existing choirs, the Good Memories Encore Chorale is a non-auditioned, tuition-based chorus meeting on a weekday. So that financial hardship is not an impediment, Encore will offer need-based scholarships to Good Memories just as we do for the current Encore Chorales.
The Good Memories Encore Chorale is the Chicago-area affiliate of the Giving Voice Initiative (GVI), created by Mary Lenard and Marge Ostroushko in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. GVI’s collaborative approach and open-source toolkit make it possible for communities around the globe to form new choirs to spread the mission and work of the Giving Voice Model. You can learn more about GVI’s history and work at www.givingvoicechorus.org.
In addition to documented health benefits and brain/body stimulation, the Good Memories Encore Chorale provides a much-needed community of support and joy, to counter the social isolation that so commonly plagues families struggling with dementia. GVI’s experience has shown that the subset of people with early- to mid-stage dementia, living outside of care facilities, is the population that is the most socially isolated following a dementia diagnosis. The community that is formed by this choir, therefore, is a true lifeline for these families.
How Can I Participate, and How Can I Help?
We are happy to hear from people who are interested in singing in our first Good Memories choir. We would also be pleased to hear from people in the community who are interested in serving in a volunteer capacity, whether as volunteer singers or behind the scenes. If any or all of those areas interest you, please contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 630-441-5157, and we’ll be in touch with you. Registration for Good Memories will begin in the summer of 2018.
Do I have to read music to be a part of Good Memories?
You don’t have to be able to read music or to sight-sing. Some singers have previous choral experience, and others do not. The repertoire is generally drawn from popular, sacred, and folk material that is likely to be familiar to most participants. Some singers learn primarily by ear; others like to simply sing from a sheet of lyrics. The important thing that is people are encouraged to participate as fully as their skills and circumstances allow.
Are you going to have more than one Good Memories choir?
We plan to expand Good Memories in the Chicago area as quickly as resources permit, just as we have done with the Encore Chorales in Chicago. Please help us by spreading the word.
How Can I Donate to Good Memories?
We would be deeply appreciative of your financial support of Good Memories, both now and in the future. Donations to Encore Illinois can be made securely online by clicking here. Checks payable to Encore Illinois may be mailed to us at 501 W. Ogden Avenue, Suite 6, Hinsdale IL 60521.
Please contact us confidentially by e-mail or by phone at 630-441-5157 if you would like to discuss making a legacy gift, a multi-year pledge or a tax-advantaged donation of appreciated securities to support the ongoing mission of the Good Memories Encore Chorale.
All donations to Encore Illinois are tax-deductible to the maximum amount allowed by law. Encore Illinois (FEIN #81-144551) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, registered also with the State of Illinois under the Charitable Trust Act. Thank you for your support.