Singing at the Threshold
“Excuse me, Wanda*. My name is Deirdre* and I’m here with Threshold Choir. Would you like us to sing for you today?”
“We are here to sing if you’d like.”
Curious expression unchanged.
“Would you like a few songs?”
Slow, impossibly delighted grin. “That would be lovely, yes, thank you.”
And so begins my first afternoon of bedside singing.
Last December, as my grandma’s grip on this world was slowly loosening, my friend and cello student Pythia* happened to mention her mother’s involvement in Threshold Choir. I believe she had referred to it in passing before but this was the first time we’d discussed it at any length. I immediately recognized the group as mine as clearly as if it had borne my signature, and in early January I attended my first rehearsal.
Within moments I knew my hunch was correct. These were my people, a small group of women varied in age, occupation, and temperament all called to musical heart-work. And this was music that spoke to me, a huge, eclectic bundle of songs intended to soothe and buoy the wild soul encased in failing flesh. We sang softly, voices delicately blended together, gently moving from unison to harmony and back again at a slight gesture from whomever was leading for the moment.
To my amusement, I found myself heralded for my music-reading fluency and willingness to carry any part needed. Sometimes I am so locked into the infinite quest for musical mastery that I forget to take pleasure in the skills I have already dialed in. This was a pleasant, welcome reminder.
Over the next several rehearsals I came to experience the singular joy that is singing, Threshold Choir style, which encompasses not only the music-making thrill I remember from my childhood and young adulthood in assorted choirs, but also the companionable silence between close friends, the introspective growth of a therapy session, the quiet devotion of a convent, the spark of endless possibility inherent in casting a circle.
Now this week, nearly four months later, I am “graduating” to bedside singer. Singing to the dying is oddly comfortable. Deeply meaningful, musically satisfying, emotionally strengthening… Just one more of those many little and not-so-little pieces that have been falling into place lately.
*names changed, of course