What does singing for the President of Ireland and Parkinson’s have in common? Quite simply, members of Move4Parkinson’s! Yesterday morning, the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins officially opened Balally Parish Pastoral Centre, where Move4Parkinson’s hold their weekly choir practice. In the weeks leading up to yesterday, the parish were busy preparing the centre and in daily communication with the President’s office as to the protocol and schedule of events for the opening.
As part of the schedule, it was agreed that the Balally Parish Choir would sing one song to welcome the President and his wife (whose sister lives in Balally). As the whole theme of the opening was centred around “community”, the director of the Balally Parish Choir kindly invited the Move4Parkinson’s Voices of Hope Choir to join them in singing for the President. We felt very honoured to be asked and graciously accepted the invitation. So, for the past couple of weeks, we rehearsed the one song that had been chosen to sing which was “What A Wonderful World” made famous by Louis Armstrong.
As our choir is made up of People with Parkinson’s, their family members and friends, not everyone was free to attend due to work commitments…etc, but just under half the choir arrived ready to sing for the President yesterday morning. As we were ushered into our places, there was a noticeable air of excitement and anticipation at welcoming the leader of our country. Shortly after 12.00pm, the President entered the pastoral centre to a rapturous applause with his wife and entourage in toe. After a couple of official photos and greetings, the Presidential party took their seats on the podium at the southern end of the centre. That was our cue.
As all eyes settled on us, Sarah Ling, the wonderful director of Balally Parish Choir led us through “What A Wonderful World”. We finished the song to a fantastic applause, very happy that we made no mistakes. A short while later, the President spoke and he acknowledged how good the choir were. He spoke a lot about community and as a community that doesn’t exclude anyone, commented on how great it was to see people with Parkinson’s singing in a community choir. The whole opening took just over 45 minutes but was a very memorable occasion. As the President left, there was a sense of pride and joy throughout the pastoral centre, that the President of Ireland had taken time out of his busy schedule to officially open this wonderful pastoral centre at the heart of a big community.