Concert will benefit Alzheimer’s Association

By on August 13, 2014
LR20140814_cAlzheimers

“No matter how lost you are, music can bring you home.”

There seems to be no consensus as to who is responsible for the above quote, but there are those who view it as gospel. Among them are physicians and therapists researching the connection between music and easing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The affect of music on Alzheimer’s was recently brought to the public’s attention when country music legend Glen Campbell was diagnosed with the disease.

Campbell went on a farewell tour and was noted by several stagehands as being confused about where to go and what to do — but once the music started, he’d stand tall and deliver a perfect performance, recalling every word to all his hits, including the wildly-popular “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

Can music help unlock a human being thought to be lost to the world? Dr. Oliver Sacks, the renowned neurologist and author, portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie Awakenings, seems to think so.

“People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can respond to music when nothing else reaches them,” Sacks wrote in a 2008 article. “Alzheimer’s can totally destroy the ability to remember family members or events from one’s own life — but musical memory somehow survives the ravages of disease, and even in people with advanced dementia, music can often reawaken personal memories and associations that are otherwise lost.”

This phenomenon has been noticed locally by vocalists who have performed in local nursing homes with Alzheimer’s units.

“Music is such a powerful medium. It touches each of us in places that are often not seen from the outside. This was driven more powerfully home to me recently when the Red Rose City Chorus were asked to perform for the Alzheimer’s unit at the Mennonite Home in Lancaster,” said Irene Hershey, who directed the group that evening. “We stepped out to sing for this group of wonderful elderly people all struggling to remember the basic parts of their former lives. I am sure many of our chorus members, and I, did not know what to expect from this audience.

“However, from the first pitch, we began to see faces light up and eyes become alert,” Hershey continued. “Somewhere in their souls, these folks found life for a short time through our songs. There were smiles, toe tapping and even some singing along as we performed melodies that brought back familiar memories of days gone by. It was a joy to experience their responses to our program and, for at least a moment or so, know that we were able to stir these people in places that only the magic of music can reach. I will remember that experience for a long time.”

Red Rose City Chorus has many members whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia and are thrilled to have been asked to sing at an upcoming Alzheimer’s benefit at St. James Catholic Church.

The event, slated for Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. will feature the a cappella women’s ensemble, sharing a billing with local teen singer/songwriter Sebastian Janoski. Silent auctions and door prizes are also part of the program, and all money raised benefits the Alzheimer’s Association. For tickets, call 333-0689.

“I can’t think of a better cause for which the chorus could donate our gift of music,” said singer Debbie Moore. “I watched my dear father go from an articulate, intelligent, productive man to a mere shell of the person he once was. It’s a devastating disease for the patients, as they lose their ability to remember loved ones and things that were, at one time, such a big part of their lives. And it is also terribly difficult for family members and friends who must say goodbye, long before the person they love actually succumbs to the disease. I look forward to singing on Saturday to benefit such a worthy cause.”

To book Red Rose City Chorus for a nursing home performance, call 610-468-0728.

Melissa Hunnefield is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at mhunnefield.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4452

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