About Hand in Hand
The theme for our church services this month is Love. Like many emotions, love can be associated with the experience of music. But there is one way that music can literally become Love in action, and that is what our church hospice singers group Hand in Hand experiences every time we sing for people in the final stage of life.
Hand in Hand is a group of dedicated singers from and on behalf of First Parish who mostly sing for people in hospice. This group is five people strong, just enough for all to fit into one car. The members include Jean Gauthier, Jean Renard Ward, Marianne Collins, Djalai Babazadeh, and myself, Charlyn Bethell. The group is a realization of a dream that began with Jean Gauthier, who has wanted to sing for hospice patients for years. She attended a weekend workshop in Western Massachusetts that was led by Kathy Leo, who began the hospice choir known as Hallowell. Kathy shared with workshop attendees her book titled On The Breath of Song, which gives readers an in depth view of what it means to be involved with bedside singing. So, using songs specially collected for hospice singing, Hand in Hand was off and running—or should I say, singing? Jean is the group leader.
Here is a snapshot of a day of hospice singing:
Thursday is our day to sing for clients, and we get ready by practicing every Tuesday at First Parish. We start our Thursdays by taking a Covid test at the hospice organization. Then we drive to the facility, sign in and find our patients. This facility is rather like a hospital, with people we serve lying in their bed.
Our singing begins with our leader, Jean, going in to greet the patient and turning off the TV or radio. We walk in softly singing a round. Jean Renard gives starting pitches, and we sing the five or six songs we’ve prepared. We quietly walk out of the room while singing the last song. Patients seldom speak to us but respond to our singing by moving their hands to the beat of our songs and most clients seem calmer when we leave. Some of our folks have passed away on the day after we sang for them. We know we made a difference in their lives. We also know that singing for them has enriched us, too. Being around life and death has made the members of the group feel close, like extended family.
We are constantly working on new songs to share. Some songs we are working on now include: Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More, Tommy Dorsey’s Precious Lord, and Bobby McFerrin’s Twenty-third Psalm.
If you know anyone—people in hospice either in a hospice facility or at their home, people who cannot leave their house for any reason and would like to have some special cheer—please let Jean know, and Hand in Hand will be there. Hand in Hand is love in action.
Music at First Parish in February:
Feb. 19th: Our special musical guest is Carole Berney, playing some Duke Ellington for us.
Vespers is Feb. 21st at 6 pm.
Feb. 26th: The First Parish choir is singing two anthems: If you Want to Go (“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”) and I Choose Love.
Charlyn’s professional training has followed two paths: as a professional oboist and as a music teacher and conductor. As Music Director at First Parish, she joins these two paths of her musical life, conducting the choir, coordinating guest musicians, and performing on oboe.