portrait of woman in black holding oboe

Charlyn Bethell, Music Director

Music and Hope. Perhaps there is always hope when there is music. I don’t think that there HAS to be music for there to be hope. Music just might make it easier.

This makes me think of what it is like singing in a hospice choir. (Jean Gauthier started the Wayfare Singers, a hospice choir, and I am a member.) I have learned that hope is quality of life for a person in hospice. What is comforting is a small group of people coming into your room for a “SING”. We do a “SING” at least once per week. Not all of us are at every SING, but a group of us stand around the bed of a person who is dying and sing songs, in two, three, or four parts. They are songs that are lovely and seem to be unique to hospice singing. Prior to singing, we center ourselves, and one person in the group goes in to see the person in hospice. We enter the room humming a song in unison. We sing approximately four songs and walk out calmly. We may go into another hospice patient’s room and similarly sing to them. We spread some cheer and I think we enhance the world with our songs.

People in hospice, and their caregivers, have lost hope that they will live much longer. But no one in hospice has lost hope that their life will still have dignity and comfort. They are cared for by selfless nurses and doctors. Our hospice choir is there to lift them into another realm. While we do not know its impact, the visible signs of our singing are always positive: patients seem more relaxed after hearing us. If they can speak, they share their appreciation. Sometimes, they sing with us. We walk out filled with gratitude that we can fulfill a special role in the lives of those dying. It reminds me that hope is for us, the living, but also beyond, in ways that we cannot know until it is our time. As a member of this singing group, I think I get back more than I give. We are mixing music and hope in a way that spreads joy and reminds me of the wonder and resilience of the human spirit.

Mixing gratitude and hope also makes me think of the First Parish choir. What a force they have become! We are now embracing the fact that we can further our UU values at services for the congregation to hear and that music can transform the musicians creating the music. That includes me and Guy.

We gratefully close out the year 2019 with amazing hope for 2020! Happy happy holidays to you all!

Music happenings in December/early January 2020 are:

December 15th: Our children’s pageant with music and drama that ushers in the holidays for us all! You will hear children singing and the sword dance, among other things.

December 22nd: Special music is a Trio for Recorder, Oboe, and Bassoon (and Harpsichord). This will be played by Laurie Wadsworth, Jean Renard Ward, Guy and myself.

December 21st at 5 pm: Solstice Celebration

December 24th, Christmas Eve at 4:30 and 6:00 pm. The First Parish choir will sing two songs: I Saw Three Ships and the Huron Carol.

Choir rehearsals for Christmas eve are on December 12th and 19th. We will rehearse rounds on January 2nd for the January 5th service. We will have a warm-up rehearsal on January 5th prior to the service in case you are not able to come on the 2nd. Subsequent to the rounds singing, January rehearsals are on: January 16th, 23rd, and 30th for singing on Ground Hog’s Day, February 2nd. (There is no choir rehearsal on December 26th and January 9th.