Members of the Tremble Clefs choral group would agree that Parkinson’s has brought them unexpected gifts amid the many losses. For one, it has brought them together.
Each week, thirty or so people, both those with PD and their care partners, gather at the United Parish of Auburndale in Newton, and sing. The Tremble Clefs singing group is part of the Parkinson’s Family Support Program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Boston.
Conductor Marilyn Okonow’s energy is contagious as she challenges the group with a repertoire spanning 1940’s jazz to modern pop. Some singers came to Tremble Clefs with a strong music background, but others never sang before or left music behind years ago when career and family duties got in the way. Now singing is an integral part of their week.
For Tremble Clefs member Greg Rice, music has become a sustaining element of his life. He’d never planned to be a composer, but nor did he expect to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in his mid 40’s. Ten years after being diagnosed, after retiring from a high-level corporate career, Greg began tinkering on the piano. And although he hadn’t had lessons since he was a kid, he suddenly found himself composing – chorales, waltzes, even a symphony. Greg says that music could express transcendence, and defiance – “a determination that we’re not going to let Parkinson’s beat us.” The gift of music has helped him to endure the losses of Parkinson’s.
Music not only inspires Greg and his fellow singers, but it gives them a way to support and inspire others. As one singer puts it, “Music is a way to connect to others and to the world.”
This past year, Greg’s composing and his singing with the Tremble Clefs came together in two public performances, one with the Boston Civic Symphony, and the second with the Wellesley Symphony Orchestra. The song performed was “It’s Up to Us – Keep Boston Strong,” which Greg wrote in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. The song recognizes the heroism of first responders and bystanders who were unexpectedly confronted with the task of saving lives, and encourages all of us to join together to keep our community strong and healthy. As the Tremble Clefs sang Greg’s lyrics in these two concerts, they were living examples of resilience and the value of supporting one another.
Key to this type of resilience is a sense that one is not alone. The outpouring of support for survivors of the marathon bombing has been a vital aspect of healing for both individuals and the Greater Boston Community. Similarly, members of the Tremble Clefs speak of the sense of mutual support that they gain from the group as an important factor in their ability to live well with Parkinson’s. When asked what motivates them to come sing each week, in rain, snow and shine, singers speak both of community as well as creative self-expression. In Greg’s words, “together we’ll be strong and free.”
For information about the Tremble Clefs, Parkinson’s Dance, support, education and networking groups for people with PD and care partners, or other Parkinson’s resources, please contact Nancy Mazonson, Director of the Parkinson’s Family Support Program at JF&CS, at email@example.com 781-693-5069.
For information about Greg’s music and his work on behalf of those with Parkinson’s, please visit www.gregricefoundation.org.