Move4Parkinson’s Patient Empowerment Day in June 2012 was a wake up call for me and my carer/wife Rebecca. It was a privilege to be there and it was a bonus for me to meet Tom Isaacs whose walk around the coast of England, Scotland and Wales I had read. His book should be read by all persons with Parkinsons as it shows what one can do if one has the will to try. There were many speakers and presentations, but the one that gripped me most was Jennifer Grandulis’s choir exercise. Within minutes she had us all singing and I resolved to join the proposed Parkinson’s choir. Rebecca encouraged me to join when my resolve began to falter. I had begun to doubt whether I would be accepted – not being able to read music – and having no experience of singing in choir. However I went along and to my surprise was accepted. This was the beginning of a whole new world of friends and fellow Parkinsonians, and a grand, happy and supportive bunch they are.
It was an interesting year for Parkinson’s people, with a National Patient Conference for Parkinson’s in the National Conference Centre. We attended and were impressed by the presentations. One in particular that took our interest was that of Professor Volpe from Venice. As a tourist visiting a music festival in Ireland he had noticed a man showing Parkinson’s symptoms walk with difficulty to the dance floor but moved fluidly once the music and set-dancing began. I had read something like this in “Musicophilia” by Oliver Sachs (chapter 20 – Kinetic Melody;PD and music therapy) but Professor Volpe suggested that Irish music was most suitable. Consequently we signed up to go to Feakle where a demonstration and talk was planned. An added bonus was that the choir was going to sing at the meeting. We stayed at a hotel in Mountshannon, a beautify peaceful setting beside the water. The choir was well received as were the dancing demonstrations. We retired to the pub as is the tradition and ate and drank our fill. Sets were danced and songs were sung ,and much to my surprise when I was called on to sing I gave a passable rendition of “An Poc Ar Buile”. I don’t think I sang solo in public in all my life up to now!
As a result of this meeting, set-dancing classes have started on under the watchful eye of Pat O’Dea.
In October we had a wonderful experience, the choir went to Montreal for the 3rd World Parkinson’s Conference. We sang at the opening ceremony and any occasion we could! The conference was very interesting and we learned a lot – including how to make people laugh – as laughter is great medicine. Rebecca & I celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary with some of the choir seated outside the hotel in central Montreal and people passing by came over and sang with us. We had a day trip to Quebec -a beautiful city, and so ended our visit to Canada, to a city which is predominantly French speaking,and feels like a French city.
The choir continued to meet every week and sang at various functions in such diverse places as Dublin Castle, Hotels, and Christchurch Cathedral. The latter was at the end of a ceremony awarding grants to Social Entrepreneurs. At the end of our song we got a standing ovation and we could literally feel the support and approval we got from the audience coming at us as if a fan had been turned on and good wishes flowed to us. It was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry! What a Year! It is hard to believe that the choir is only a year and a quarter old, but already it has changed my life!
2014 will bring its own challenges and changes but already the Set-dancing classes have begun and we are learning the new steps and movements. Rebecca and I met at a Ceili and were dedicated ceili fans while we were free to do so. When children started to arrive Ceilis were put on hold .So we are back to square one and facing new challenges, with the help and support of family and friends – not least our friends in the “Voices of Hope” Choir.
About the Author:
Tim, pictured with wife Rebecca, has six children and thirteen grandchildren.
He worked as a Librarian/Information officer until he retired in 2001. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2004.