Bringing comfort to those nearing death

Local Voices of Compassion Threshold Choir sings acapella at bedside

On Monday evenings walking into Alberta Avenue Community Centre, you may hear the soft blend of sweet voices in tight harmony wafting down the hall. These voices belong to the Voices of Compassion Threshold Choir rehearsing in the Lutz Room.

This small group of women is one of the over 200 choirs internationally who sing songs written to bring ease and comfort to those nearing death. Found in most major cities in North America and now worldwide, the Threshold Choirs were founded by Kate Munger in early 2000 in the Bay area of California. Munger recognized how comforting the power of song was when she sang bedside for a friend dying of HIV/AIDS. Wanting to bring this to anyone needing support at this often difficult time, she formed the first Threshold Choir.

I founded the Edmonton chapter, called Voices of Compassion. We first gathered in the fall of 2017 in a church basement. With weekly practices, the members memorized a repertoire of music specifically written by and for Threshold Choirs. Once a number of pieces and their parts are known well enough, members are ready to be in service and go bedside in trios to sing acapella to those on or near the threshold of life.

We have just recently been asked to sing bedside at a few nursing homes and hospital settings by families requesting our service. It took us over a year to learn enough songs and have enough singers ready to go into this most intimate and sacred of time, to support the traveler and the family in a proper way. 

All singers in our group know this is a call to service. We do not charge for our presence; we simply want to feel that our gift of song is bringing ease and grace to an often very difficult time for people. Our friends at Pilgrims Hospice offer hospice training to our singers in preparation for going bedside.

As we are becoming better known in the community and busier, we are ready to accept and train new singers into the group. This is certainly not a recreation or performance choir. We are a service group, and welcome singers who resonate with the idea of being a calm, comforting presence to those dying. A short interview and audition are required. Contact us at voices.compassion@gmail.com or on Facebook at Voices of Compassion Threshold Choir.


Featured Image: Peaceful Fields | www.LSHULBA.com

Valda Roberts

Valda is an Alberta Avenue resident and volunteer for the past 20 years. She’s an event organizer and general all round rabble rouser.

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