New choral group for people with Parkinson’s


“Singing with Parkinsons” is a new choral ensemble for people with Parkinson’s and their care partners at Laura’s Center for the Arts in Hanover by the South Shore Conservatory and the South Shore YMCA

THE PATRIOT LEDGER – A new chorus for people with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and their care partners has been started at Laura’s Center for the Arts by the South Shore YMCA Emilson Branch and the South Shore Conservatory.

The choral ensemble, Singing with Parkinson’s, is the first of its kind on the South Shore and one of four in the state. The others are in Falmouth, Shrewsbury and Newton. It is the latest in a series of new programs at the Y’s Emilson Branch for people with the progressive neurological disease. Parkinson’s affects movement and motor skills; medications and exercise can help improve symptoms.

Eve Montague, director of the Creative Arts Therapies department at South Shore Conservatory

The director, Eve Montague, last year helped form an arts program, the Memory Cafe, for people with Alzheimer’s disease at the Conservatory in Hingham. Montague is director of the Conservatory’s creative art therapies department.

“Our brains are incredible organs and can take the sounds they hear and re-circuit or re-path them in our brain,” Montague said. “People find they have better flow of air and breath and that tremors decrease and they walk better.”

Certified music therapists including Amanda Reopell designed the choral program with exercises to help ease symptoms and build community. Montague said that Parkinson’s disease can cause changes in speech, including speaking in a softened or slurred manner, and that singing can help improve breathing. The weekly Wednesday meetings will include vocal and facial drills, such as stretching the facial muscles and voices while singing together.

Dan Berry, executive director of the South Shore YMCA’s Emilson Branch, said he hopes to continue working with the Conservatory to develop more programs of inclusion and wellness.

Music helps reduce Parkinson’s symptoms, Montague explained, because “neurologically, music affects the brain and muscles in a way that allows individuals to use their voice and move their bodies more effectively and powerfully.” Music allows some people to use alternate brain pathways when certain areas shut down, she said, and is a way to “address multiple symptoms in a fun and social way.”

The chorus is free of charge to people with Parkinson’s and for their caretakers. It meets from 1 to 2:30 p.m. every Wednesday at Laura’s Center for the Arts, 97 Mill St., on the Y’s Emilson campus, near Hanover Mall.

For more information, contact Montague at [email protected] or (781) 934-2731 ext. 20.

The program is supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, exercise is also a vital part of controlling symptoms and maintaining balance, mobility and activities of daily living. The Emilson Y also offers:

  • Pedal and Punch for Parkinson’s: Aerobic exercise while pedaling on the bike, with exercises and punches, to improve gait, balance, tremors and mobility. (Thursdays at 1 p.m., free to members)
  • Cycle for Parkinson’s: Pedaling indoor bikes at a rapid pace with a certified Parkinson’s exercise instructor. (Wednesdays at 12 p.m., free to members, first session free to non-members).
  • Strength Training for Parkinson’s: Functional movements with a certified Parkinson’s exercise instructor to help with activities of everyday life. (Wednesdays at 1:15 p.m., free to members)

For more information about the pedaling or functional exercise programs, contact Kate Mortland, a certified Parkinson’s exercise instructor, at [email protected] or 781-264-7913.

By Sue Scheible

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