Voices in Motion is a multi-generational choir that brings together adults experiencing memory loss, their family members, care partners, caregivers, young people and members of the community.
Founded just two years ago, there are now six Voices in Motion choirs across Greater Victoria.
“There are over 200 people now singing in these choirs,” says Erica Phare-Bergh, Voices in Motion artistic director. “Three of them are community choirs, and three of them are in long-term care facilities. It’s become like a family for us.”
“She doesn’t remember, so even when we’re driving here, it’s like, where are we going?”
Wendy Casey and her mom drive from the Cowichan Valley to Victoria every week to sing.
“When we come through the door it’s like she’s never been here,” says Casey. “We practice the music in the car, but she doesn’t sing. But as soon as she sits down with the choir, she starts to sing.
“She used to play music, she was a school teacher, she loved singing with the children, so by the time we finish our rehearsal she’s singing along, and when we drive home she’s animated, and she’s speaking. And I notice that her mood is better for the next 24 hours after we’ve been here.”
“We all know the impact that singing has on people [with dementia]” says Phare-Bergh, “but it’s fascinating, and wonderful, to have the research behind it that says ‘yeah, this is actually making a huge impact, physically, in your brain, in terms of the synapses and in terms of the neuro-connections, that are happening.'”
So are they looking for more members to join Voices in Motion?
“Absolutely! Always!” says Phare-Bergh enthusiastically. “I would say we would have to cap the choirs at 60 [members], because then it starts to feel impersonal to people and can get a bit confusing, but definitely looking for more people all the time.”
But what if you can’t sing?
“First of all,” says Phare-Bergh with a smile, “I don’t believe that someone can’t sing – everybody can learn. It’s a muscle, you know? They can learn to sing. And, in fact, some choir members have said “wow, you know, my range has improved…'”
Wendy Casey can’t say enough about the joy singing in the choir has brought to her mom, and to her too. “It’s a very special time for us. In my mind, I’m like, ‘how can we get this across the world?’ There’s so many people that could be affected [in hugely positive ways] by having music in their lives.”