WHEN a friend sent conductor Brian Triglone a YouTube video revealing a choir of people with dementia in Minneapolis, he was instantly inspired to start one in Canberra.
And when Brian went to the Alzheimer’s Australia ACT branch to discuss this, he found out that they were also thinking about starting a choir for people living with dementia and their carers.
Since then, in a partnership between Brian and Alzheimer’s Australia ACT, there have been a few months of choir get-togethers as well as public performances.
“The important thing, from my point of view, is that it’s a choir for people with dementia and their carers,” says Brian.
The 50 members of the choir came up with the name, the Alchemy Chorus and recently received gold scarves to represent “alchemy”, which is defined as the transmutation of base metals such as lead into gold.
In the Middle Ages alchemists sought a substance that could transmute metals, believing it would cure all diseases.
While the choir doesn’t necessarily represent this traditional “substance”, research from the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation shows that people with dementia taking part in regular singing sessions illustrate improvements in brain function.
Brian says: “Someone came up to me recently and said, ‘It’s the first time I’ve seen my husband smile in as long as I remember’.
“It’s something for them to look forward to each week.”
Michelle Chaplin, communications manager for the local Alzheimer’s branch, agrees.
“What we have seen is people smiling within the first couple of weeks,” she says.
“One said: ‘I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled’.
“Some members’ speech has improved because singing has stimulated that side of the brain.
“The carer can come along and sing, people don’t need any experience either. It’s a wonderful opportunity to build self-esteem and there’s a safe solidarity singing as a group.”
But, Michelle says, it isn’t just about singing. Through the choir Alzheimer’s ACT is hoping to form a connection with people in the community who live with dementia.
She says the organisation wants to communicate with people who have been diagnosed and who might be feeling vulnerable and in need of further support.
The Alchemy Choir is part of the Alzheimer’s Australia ACT’s Dementia and the Arts Program and this year it will be running other social groups such as dancing, swimming and political discussion.
More information at 6255 0722.