Wow. Last Thursday marked the first anniversary of the Voices of Hope’s very first rehearsal. Celebrating with cake, cards and music, we remembered that rehearsal; 9 voices strong in the upstairs of a community centre. The room was small, there were more chairs than you could ever possibly need, and there were a small group of nervous people (me included) who came together to start something we didn’t realise would snowball into what it has become.
From that first rehearsal, we solidified into a family in unity through song, supporting each other in overcoming and fighting a disease that had already taken a toll on so many of our members, including the carers. We have created a top 10 iTunes R&B hit single, sung for the president, performed with Irish legends, Shay Healy, Niamh Kavanagh and Kevin Sharkey, received a standing ovation from the Garda Band (which I’ve learned is unheard of!), performed at the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists biennial conference, and have uplifted and inspired countless people throughout the world with our spirit, concerts, workshops and music.
But that’s all about the ‘we.’ I suppose I COULD say something about the ‘me.’ Before I met Mags, I really didn’t know much about the world of PD. And I didn’t realise what an impact not only WE could have on our audiences, but the impact I could have on such an amazing group of people. This year has moved me to tears on maybe just a FEW occasions, knowing in my heart what I give to the choir is not nearly as huge as what I have been given. I may be a girl of many songs, but I’ve never claimed to be one of many words (although my husband and friends might disagree), so forgive me if I can’t articulate what the Voices of Hope means to me. This is a special and unique family who allows me to lead them in song and solidarity weekly, trusting in my abilities… and putting me in my place occasionally too. Pretty much a perfect partnership!
So now the Voices of Hope are looking into the future and working towards encouraging and supporting an Ireland with more People with Parkinson’s taking on an active role in their treatment as well as improving their daily lives. We are taking our ‘show’ on the proverbial road in less than a month’s time to attend the World Parkinson’s Congress in Montreal! This is a huge step for us and I can’t thank enough those who have supported us in getting us there. This trip will certainly test our limits; jet lag, long haul flights, 10 days away from home, a squirmy toddler on the plane journeys (mine), workshops, lectures, poster sessions…. and LOTS of singing. Oh yes, there WILL be lots of singing. But I think it will all only serve to bring us even closer together in unity and get us excited about what ever new and amazing things are in store for us.
In June 2012, when I was preparing my workshop for the Move4Parkinson’s empowerment day at the Aviva Stadium, I came across a quote from the late Indian guru Sai Baba that resonated within me quite strongly. I have kept the quote with me since that day and continue to return to it and I share it now in celebration and affirmation of the Voices of Hope’s first birthday:
Life is a game – play it
Life is a challenge – meet it
Life is a dream – realize it
Life is a sacrifice – offer it
Life is love – enjoy it
Happy birthday Voices of Hope! Thank you for an amazing year and here’s to an even better second!!
About the Author:
Jennifer Grundulis Jennifer is an American-born speech and language therapist by day and a rock-star choir director by night. She directs the Voices of Hope Choir and the gospel and inspirational choir, A Glór Gospel. Jennifer has been a SLT for more than 14 years and currently works with CATTS Ireland. She is trained in the LSVT-LOUD programme for People with Parkinson’s. She will be making her Irish stage debut as the Mother Abbess in the St. Agnes Musical Society production of The Sound of Music in March 2014. She is proud mother of two to Jacob and Josie and wife to awesome husband Robert.