Keep On Shining! Stand in the Light Memory Choir Flourishes Amid Pandemic
local choral program for those with dementia and other health conditions persists during isolating times
The Stand in the Light Memory Choir – a choral program for those with dementia and other health conditions – has worked hard over the past year and a half to keep running during the pandemic.
Director Cathy Reitz, along with the choir’s board, had to decide whether the program, which began in 2016, would continue or wait until the pandemic was over. Despite not having the experience working with technology, Reitz stayed dedicated to the program.
“This choir does something to you. It makes you realize that this is more than just the music,” Reitz said as she began to tear up.
As the choir shifted its program online, it became something of a reunion: Some participants had been unable to see their loved ones since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Family members from across the world joined choir practices virtually to see their loved ones.
“It was amazing,” Reitz said. “As families would join the Zoom calls, we would even put them into their own breakout rooms to give them the opportunity to spend time with just their families.”
The purpose of Stand in the Light Choir is to “use the power of singing to move people with memory loss, and their singing partners, to rediscover themselves, make new friends, laugh together, learn together, and contribute to their community.”
And they’re doing just that as more and more people continue to join. With time, the program hopes to include more people with aphasia and multiple sclerosis, and they are looking to help people who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
However, Reitz wanted people to realize that this is not a choir defined by those who have illnesses. “(What) I have is a community choir, and we all just bring our baggage,” Reitz said. “We all bring something.”
The program has a goal of removing the stigma that if a person has memory loss they are unable to do anything anymore and that there is nothing that can be done. They believe that even as some memories are lost to dementia, music can help form new ones.
“This choir, the experience, is humbling, truly humbling,” Reitz said.
Interested in the Choir?
The Stand in the Light Memory Choir is open for all. There is a $25 a semester fee, but scholarship programs are available. The choir meets 10-11am Thursdays at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (1120 Cedar St., Eau Claire) under the pavilion at the end of the parking lot or via Zoom (email firstname.lastname@example.org for a link). Those who attend in-person must maintain social distance and need proof of vaccination.
How to Tune In
Stand in the Light Memory Choir will livestream its fall performance at 6:30pm Thursday, Nov. 18. They will also host Christmas sing-a-longs 10-11am on Dec. 2 and 9 for anyone interested.
For more information about this program, the choir can be found on Facebook or at standinthelightmemorychoir.org.