Friday, August 29, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Threshold choir sings for the sick and dying

Members of the Davis Threshold Choir rehearse their soothing and comforting songs at the Unitarian Universalist Church. In the middle rests a reclining chair, where members, newcomers and visitors take a turn at relaxing while being sung to. Sitting in the chair, eyes closed, provides a glimpse into the soothing power of a dozen or more women's voices raised in song, and it gives the choir someone to focus on while they practice. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | July 08, 2012 |

“I will shelter you my friend.

I will shelter you.

With a love that has no end,

Know that I will shelter you.

I will sing for you my friend.

I will sing for you.

With a song that has no end,

Know that I will sing for you.”

— From the Davis Threshold Choir song book

It is, they say, a practice as old as time: Women, singing at the bedside of the sick and dying in order to bring some measure of comfort and peace to someone’s final days.

Theirs are gentle, maternal voices, singing simple songs, much like many of them did years ago to soothe a crying baby or a child who couldn’t sleep.

Now they form the Davis Threshold Choir, some two dozen women in all, and they sing to ease the discomfort and fear and anxiety of those on the threshold between life and death.

A day of singing

What: Join Threshold Choir founder and artistic director Kate Munger at a workshop for female voices sponsored by the Davis Threshold Choir

When: Saturday, July 28; registration at 9:30 a.m.; singing from 10 a.m. to noon; lunch from noon to 1 p.m.; more singing from 1 to 3 p.m. A salad lunch will be provided but guests are asked to bring their own napkins, water bottles and/or mugs

Where: Fair Oaks United Methodist Church, 9849 Fair Oaks Blvd.

Cost: Free, but donations are suggested

Info: Karen at (209) 296-7354 or www.thresholdchoir.org

Referred by Yolo Hospice, local hospitals and individuals, they go in groups of three or four to the bedside of the sick and dying throughout Davis, where they’ll sing for an hour or so at a time, once a week, and when the end draws near, they’ll go more often.

“We ‘sit vigil,’ said choir member Doreen Conte, “coming every day near the end if they want us to.”

Their singing is part lullaby, part gospel hymn, with songs sung in harmonies and rounds. Though they are not a religious group, not affiliated with any church, they tailor their songs to the patient’s religious background and music preferences, even their languages.

They’ve sung in Spanish, Zulu, Arabic. They know what they do makes a difference.

Choir member Susan Kirby recalls the hospice patient she sang to several times before the woman’s death. She was very restless and agitated near the end, Kirby said, but once the choir would begin singing, the woman would visibly relax and let go, sinking slowly back into her bed.

One patient told choir member Wendy Nyquist that listening to the choir “is the only time I don’t think about dying,” she said.

Often choir members are called in early, when a patient is still alert and able to communicate, and that allows time for the women to get to know the patient personally.

Those times, Nyquist said, are the best.

“It’s very special when we can form a relationship with the person,” she said.

But it makes the patient’s death all that much harder.

For Nyquist, whose life work has involved working with the elderly and mentally ill, and dealing frequently with death and dying, it’s something she’s had to become comfortable with.

For new choir members without that experience, there is an orientation beforehand to help them prepare for spending time at the bedside of the dying. And afterwards, there is always a debriefing of sorts to process the grief together.

They are a diverse group of women, ranging in age from 20s to 80s. There is young Marissa Bentivoglio, a public relations specialist who refers to the other women as “my moms.” And there is Davis poet laureate Allegra Silberstein, now in her 80s and singing to patients every week.

The Davis choir is one of nearly 100 threshold choirs that have sprung up around the world since the first one was started by Bay Area resident Kate Munger back in 2000.

The idea had come to her while caring for a close friend who was dying of HIV/AIDS in his home.

“I did housework all morning and was terrified when the time came to sit by his bedside,” she said. “I did what I always did when I was afraid: I sang the song that gave me courage. I sang it for 2 1/2 hours. It comforted me, which comforted him.”

From there she gathered a small group of women to create the first threshold choir. Soon after, chapters started in the East Bay and Marin County, and later spread north into Canada, across the country to New York City, and everywhere in between.

“Our goal is bring ease and comfort to those at the thresholds of living and dying,” Munger has said. “A calm and focused presence at the bedside — with gentle voices, simple songs and sincere kindness — can be soothing and reassuring to clients, family and caregivers alike.”

They sing as a form of gentle blessing, the women say, rather than as entertainment. They are honored when a client falls asleep.

“We say that’s like a standing ovation,” Conte said.

And though they see the benefit to the patients they sing to, the women speak of the benefits to themselves as well.

Nyquist first read about the Davis Threshold Choir in The Enterprise five years ago and decided to check it out.

“It just sounded like it was something I wanted to do,” she said.

“And the first time I came, that was it. I had been searching for a spiritual home and found it.”

That spiritual home features weekly gatherings to learn and practice new songs. They meet at the Unitarian Universalist Church and the Davis Community Church, where they sit in a circle and sing.

In the middle rests a reclining chair, where members, newcomers and visitors take a turn at relaxing while being sung to. Sitting in the chair, eyes closed, provides a glimpse into the soothing power of a dozen or more women’s voices raised in song, and it gives the choir someone to focus on while they practice.

The choir welcomes new members all the time, as well as referrals from anyone with a friend or family member in need of comfort. Their service is free.

To learn more, contact Conte at (530) 758-7671 or Carol Lynn at (530) 757-2948, or visit http://www.thresholdchoir.org/davis

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Comments

comments

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Davis Innovation Center team fields questions

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Researchers solve mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    California extends review of $25B delta plan

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Equestrian eventing competition slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Forum explores local mental health services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

     
     
    Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Books, conversation and poetry at Logos

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Forum

    Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    What if we need MRAP?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    How could tank be helpful?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

    Don’t sentence our police to death

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2, 1 Comment

     
    Will Davis see river water?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Travel buddy is getting too fat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils scrimmage with Sac

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

    By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6

    Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Technology makes a great car better

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Elaine Dracia Greenberg

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Margarita Elizondo

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics