Clair Leaman of New Holland has conducted "Messiah" Sing-Along concerts for more than 20 years. Faith Hoover, director of Adult Day Services and coordinator of the Memory Loss Support Group at Landis Homes, attends the "Messiah" Sing-Alongs. Hoover thought that if Leaman had the skills and flexibility to conduct the sing-alongs, which are performed without previous rehearsals, he might be an ideal person to conduct a concert that brings together Alzheimer's patients who have an interest in singing.
Hoover approached Leaman following a sing-along, and he agreed to conduct. The result is the "Sing for the Moment" Holiday Concert, which will be held at Landis Homes in the West Bethany Chapel, 1001 E. Oregon Road, Lititz, on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m. Admission is free, and the public is welcome to attend.
Leaman said that the concert will include seven well-known Christmas carols such as "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger," and "O Come, All Ye Faithful," in addition to one popular show tune. "We will be singing ... 'My Favorite Things,'" noted Leaman, who has enlisted the handbell choir from St. Stephen Reformed Church of New Holland to participate. "The handbell choir will play three or four pieces," said Leaman.
Choir members come with their caregivers from all around the county. Leaman said that the caregivers also participate in the rehearsals, which are held on Wednesday mornings at Landis Homes. Leaman said that rehearsals begin with light refreshments and a social time prior to practicing the material. All choir members use the words to the songs, which have been printed in a special "Sing for the Moment" choir book created for the group. "Students from Conestoga Christian School decorated the pages," said Leaman, who added that the book includes 19 musical pieces. According to Leaman, the group includes up to four tenors, a couple of basses, and some altos. Those who know their parts sing them, but no music is provided at this point.
Kim Enck, a caregiver who is a choir participant with her husband, said that the weekly rehearsals are a blessing to them. "As a spouse of one living with dementia, one can understand that this disease has so changed the dynamics of our relationship, but not the love," she said. "(Choir rehearsals are) one activity, of only a few as his memory continues to diminish, that we both can enjoy in the moment. To me, (that) is huge."
Shelby Swartley, a social worker with Lancaster General Health Penn Medicine Alzheimer's and Memory Care Program, said that participating in the choir can renew family connections and have positive effects on the patients. "One of the greatest benefits of the choir is the joy that it brings both persons with dementia and their family members as they sing together," she said. "Music touches persons in ways that a lot of other experiences don't, (so) while they may not recall the event later in the day, the positive emotional feelings from experiencing music goes with them throughout the day."
Hoover is delighted that the opportunity to take part in "Sing in the Moment" is available to people with memory loss and their care partners. "The (joyful moments) that all of us experience in singing together are moments to cherish," she noted.
Leaman is glad he agreed to conduct the choir. "I am thrilled to be able to do this," he said. "I am learning as I am going." Leaman is especially pleased with the effects he sees rehearsals having on the group. "The choir members are all engaged when they're singing," he said.
Individuals who would like more information about the concert or choir participation may contact Candy Yingling at the Alzheimer's Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter by calling 717-568-2595, ext. 1100 ,or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information in the case of inclement weather, readers may call 717-569-3271 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.