HINGHAM – A choir group for people with symptoms of Parkinson’s is returning to in-person sessions after going online in the past year during the pandemic.
The South Shore Conservatory’s Singing with Parkinson’s chorus, which went virtual in September 2020, will meet in person starting January 12 at the Conservatory’s Hingham campus.
Cathy Kang, from Scituate, a certified music therapist trained in neurological music therapy, will be the new conductor.
The choir will meet Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is open to people living with Parkinson’s disease, their care partners and anyone in their support network.
The group will be limited to 20 people in order to maintain social distance.
On the South Shore, more than 300 people live with progressive neuromuscular disease, according to the conservatory.
The brain disorder causes tremors and primarily affects older people, with the average age of diagnosis being 60. Symptoms include tremors, stiffness, and difficulty walking, balancing, and coordinating.
The Conservatory’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies received a grant from the American Parkinson Disease Association to fund the renewed choir. The new session runs from January 12 to June 1, 2022.
The choir was started in January 2019 by Eve Montague with a grant from the American Parkinson Disease Association Massachusetts Chapter.
Singing groups for people with Parkinson’s disease have sprung up across the country. Kang said research has shown that singing together and doing musical exercises can improve breathing, improve communication skills and speech quality, and enhance feelings of well-being.
“People really like to sing together,” she said.
Sessions typically include one hour of rehearsal followed by 30 minutes of optional social time with refreshments. There is no charge; donations are accepted for refreshments.
Regular song:How the Parkinson’s choir started
In a typical session, the choir members perform easy movements and vocal warm-ups. Then they sing both famous songs and a new repertoire with live accompaniment. Kang will work with a certified movement / dance therapist and faculty coach.
Activities are chosen to help singers strengthen the volume of their voice, which is often reduced as Parkinson’s disease progresses. Repetitive exercises help maintain motor and vocal skills for longer.
Ed Sorrentino, a music teacher at the conservatory, has also conducted drumming circles at senior centers in Norwell and Pembroke.
“We are happy to see the power of music touching this population, and we hope this weekly gathering will brighten the lives of everyone who comes to sing with us,” said Kang.
A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Kang studied music therapy and psychology as a second career. She has also worked with adults recovering from stroke or head trauma, adults with dementia, young adults with special needs and children of all ages.
Music therapist Amanda Reopell was the conductor.
“It was a very enriching experience meeting people and being able to share music together,” she said. “People made new relationships through music and also shared their common experience of living with Parkinson’s disease. New relationships have formed.
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