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Cork Branch Perpetual Motion Choir and the Benefits of Singing for PD

The Cork branch choir “Perpetual Motion” formed in 2019 by Ted Horgan (pictured first on the right) and Jerome Maume (pictured fourth from the left) is still singing to help its members fight Parkinson’s. 

We meet to sing together every Monday from 7.30pm to 9.00pm with a tea break (excluding public holidays and in the event of severe weather). We first sang as a group in public at the annual Cork branch mass in 2019 which is a very moving and powerful service organised by Ted over the past 10 years including anointing of the sick. We are hoping to sing for the fourth time at the mass in Rochestown Church on [17th ] April. We also initiated some enjoyable sing songs at the then annual summer outing to West Cork.

Everyone can sing! Group singing is scientifically proven to have many health benefits particularly for those with Parkinson’s. 90% of people with Parkinson’s will have voice issues.

The group is currently facilitated by Jerome Maume, who has early onset Parkinson’s Disease but also over 30 years of choral experience and is a grade 8 qualified classical singer. 

We currently have about 18 active members (14 of whom have Parkinson’s) with care partners and other family members also joining us from time to time.

After an initial chat we spend about 20 minutes doing physical and vocal warmups followed by some simple songs and chants. We have a tea break and then work on repertoire chosen by the members or with some performance objective.

About 20 of us enjoyed participating in the Focus Ireland carol singing event in Kent railway station fundraising for the homeless followed by a gathering for tea, coffee and scones.

We are currently practising to sing for the  fourth time at the Cork branch annual mass in Rochestown Church on April 17th and are exploring other future performance opportunities. The emphasis however is on fun singing and good vocal health.

Everyone with Parkinson’s is welcome to come and join in, regardless of singing ability or experience.

The Benefits of Singing for PD

90% of People with Parkinson’s will have issues with their voice. Difficulties can include:

  • reduced volume
  • issues with pitch, speaking in a monotone
  • mumbling, stammering
  • confusion, memory issues and loss of vocabulary and other cognitive issues
  • postural and facial issues with drooling, swallowing and masking which can affect vocal production

Regular voice exercises and singing are proven to help address such key symptoms.

Group Singing is hugely beneficial in helping to address other symptoms such as apathy by encouraging regular social interaction, fun, Parkinsons awareness and information exchange. Learning lyrics, harmonies and melodies can help to keep the mind active and fight brain fog, concentration and memory issues.

You sing with your whole body. Proper diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing and  good posture are promoted in choral singing.  This is very helpful for those with Parkinson’s. Adding choreography and movement helps as a form of physical exercise and to encourage mental multi-tasking. Simple instruments like kazoos, shakers, maracas, castanets, tambourines, drums can also be added for fun.

Public performance is not essential but it can be confidence building and give a great “Buzz”. Establishing a branch choral group can help:

  • promote the activities of the branch locally,
  • highlight the need for research and better treatments
  • assist in fundraising initiatives such as concerts, public events, busking, flash mobs, carol singing and even subject to proper licensing if necessary through CD recording or recordings published online or through social media,
  • through concerts with other choirs create fun and help to raise awareness and assist fundraising
  • add an entertaining and fun dimension to branch activities such as an annual dinner, gathering, outing or religious service or even just a trip away for the choir themselves to link up with other Parkinson’s singing groups in Ireland or internationally.

Singing is as natural as talking and humans have been singing, dancing, drawing and telling stories for millions of years.  Ability to sing a specific note or pitch is sometimes just a matter of personal taste and can often be helped by learning proper singing techniques and building confidence. Good physical and vocal warmups are essential.  Tunes should be selected within the singers vocal range and technical experience or simply in a better “key” that suits their voice and most importantly which they know or will enjoy singing.

Care Partners and family members can choose to become involved to share in the fun and feel part of the Parkinson’s community and engage with other carers or take a bit of time for themselves or in a carers social group while the person with Parkinson’s is engaged in choral activities.

If setting up a group is not feasible, there are other alternatives available online such as Parkinson’s Ireland online weekly singalongs with Dara on Tuesdays at 11am and also from time to time through other organisations such as the World Parkinson’s Congress choir and many welcoming singing groups such as community choirs, church choirs or online virtual choirs.

Groups can try simple chants, round songs where different sections sing at different times, barber shop, creative harmonies, gospel singing, blues, soul, country and old time, traditional Irish songs, pop songs, opera songs, sea shanties, classical songs.

So get out there and Sing! Chant! Dance! Drum! Shout! Be Loud and Proud of fighting Parkinson’s!

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