Threshold Choir navigates death through song


Offering compassion, kindness and comfort, Threshold Choir sings bedside vigils for those approaching their last moments of life.

“The intention is, of course, to sing along to dying people,” said choir administrator Johanna Leseho, who kicked off Brandon’s chapter with Audrey Thiessen last spring.

“There’s more than just going singing.

“You have to have a conscience [of] sensitivity to people in the room… you’re there to sing.

Leseho believes it to be the first choir of its kind in Manitoba and one of the few in Canada.

“It’s a great organization.

The choir members will sing in what are described as “lullaby voices” which are suited to the stage a person is in during their dying process – this includes if they are singing for someone who can. be in the active dying phase or sing more to the family in the room.

The choir offers a selection of different songs, so each performance can be adapted appropriately depending on who it is singing to.

The idea for the Brandon Threshold Choir sprang up when Leseho was trained to be a dying doula in January.

“I took this because I wanted to be able to support people at the end of their life.

She heard about Threshold Choir from a friend in Vancouver.

Leseho had never heard of the organization before and was immediately won over by the concept. She quickly went online to research, learn more, and listen to the choir.

After diving deep into Threshold Choir online, Leseho said, she was forced to start a chapter in Brandon.

The first Threshold Choir was launched in the United States in 1990 when choir founder Kate Munger sang for her friend who lay in a coma, dying of HIV / AIDS. She sang for her friend and watched how comforting her song seemed, despite her friend being in a coma.

To be part of the International Threshold Choir, groups must follow the organization’s bedside program. It usually takes about nine months before a choir is ready to sing at the bedside of a dying person.

The first step was to apply to become a Threshold Choir Chapter – part of that includes completing a program created by the organization.

Once a group receives approval to start a choir, Threshold Choir provides a coach who helps members sing in harmony and learn to navigate the end-of-life process.

“We have someone we can talk to and figure out how to do things,” Leseho said.

Threshold offers songs for choirs, each written by members, and has a total of approximately 340 songs in their repertoire.

Leseho described the tunes as short, easy-to-remember songs. Users can visit the Threshold Choir website to listen to music, which is especially important because not all choir members can read music.

The Brandon Threshold chapter has slowly grown, Leseho said, and it has been amazing to see the members connecting and singing in harmony.

The group currently has around nine members, but hope to see more join us.

The choir meets every other Tuesday evening and has selected a selection of songs that they are learning.

“We laugh. We take care of each other. It’s lovely,” Leseho said.

To become a member of the Brandon Chapter, members must be able to harmonize, hold their part, use lullaby voices, and sing with kindness. She added that it is best for people to memorize the songs, but the band can adapt if that is not possible.

Leseho described the songs as heartfelt and focused on comfort and kindness.

During practice, members take turns lying on an anti-gravity chair, surrounded in a circle by other choir members, and are sung.

“That way anyone can experience what it is and sing in front of someone who is lying down,” Leseho said. “From my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, it’s amazing. I just sank, as soon as they started singing I relaxed into a state of calm and peace so deep. It was phenomenal.

The members sing with kindness and the intention is to put themselves in a state of benevolence during bedside visits. These feelings are in turn transmitted to the people to whom the song is sung.

“We care about you. You are not alone here,” Leseho said.

Someone does not have to be near death to get the choir singing, and members can make it to any stage of the end-of-life process.

“There are songs that maybe aren’t even for the dying person, but before the family to help them feel a little more comfortable,” Leseho said. “The people who have joined the choir are just wonderful. They have beautiful voices and the idea is to sing in harmony.

The group recently had the opportunity to sing near a grave and were able to participate and share their skills with the family.

When they are ready to sing at the bedside, they will go out and make contacts with different organizations in the city to get in touch with possible interested parties.

She added that although all members get together to practice, there will only be between two and four people who will sit next to the bedside to sing to those who are dying.

It’s a remarkable experience, she said, and the majority of the choir members have had the experience of comforting a dying person before joining the band – in many cases this has included singing.

“Personally, someone they loved was dying and they naturally sang to them,” Leseho said.

When her husband was dying, he wanted to do poetry read and listen to music, especially the music of Leonard Cohen.

“For me, it’s really important to know what the person wants. That’s why I took the doula course. To do advance care planning, it allows someone to say whatever they want in their later stages and certainly during their active death, ”Leseho said.

“Music is something that I think definitely touches so many people. Whatever kind of music they like.

Based on COVID-19 public health measures when they are ready and able as a group, members of the Threshold Choir are excited to begin providing bedside visits.

The choir is always welcoming new members and the next meeting will be on January 4th. Email Leseho at [email protected] for more information.

She also recommends visiting the official Threshold Choir site for additional information about the band.

“You will not only be able to hear them sing, but you will also hear some of the choir members sharing their experience.”

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