WHEN conductor Brian Triglone set up Canberra’s first dementia-friendly choir in 2016 he never imagined the positive impact it would also have on carers.
Now two years on, the 72-year-old retiree and Alchemy Chorus founder hopes to set up a network of similar choirs around Australia.
Inspired by a Minnesota choir that caters for people living at home with mild to moderate dementia, and their carers, Brian set up the chorus with the help of the ACT branch of Dementia Australia.
Now it has grown from a handful of members to a regular weekly attendance of about 75.“This is not about setting up singalong choirs full of people with dementia,” Brian said.
Instead the choir, which performs two concerts a year, offers an activity that can be enjoyed by carers, participants and volunteer choristers.
“The responsibility on a carer is enormous and often unrelenting, so we offer a weekly opportunity for couples to engage in a normal, enjoyable activity,” he said.
“One of our carers described it as ‘glorious ordinariness’.”
The Canberra choir has already inspired a Sydney group, set up by Bronwyn Hendy last year.
Now Brian wants to see more Alchemy Chorus groups in regional centres.
To this end, he has produced a set of guidelines for anyone interested in setting up their own Alchemy choir, which includes contacting your local Dementia Australia branch for advice and resources.
“I’d say to anyone thinking of setting it up, it’s going to be a lot easier than you think,” Brian said, “as long as you’ve got some people skills and music skills and preferably a link to an existing community choir so you can draw on a pool of volunteers to form the core of the choir.”
He said the volunteers are vital to the choir’s structure, providing a solid musical base and helping participants find their part.
“One of our volunteers stood up last week and gave a passionate speech telling everyone how joining Alchemy Chorus was the best experience he’d ever had!”
Soloists are encouraged, especially from those members with dementia.
“We’ve had some wonderful and very moving discoveries of hidden talent,” said Brian, adding that often the singers with dementia “come alive” when performing.
The choir’s repertoire of about 75 songs includes many which are familiar, and are usually sung in three parts.
“We’ve found those with dementia roughly fall into the age group between 60 and 85 so we choose songs they have sung or heard in their teens and early childhood,” Brian said.
There are also visiting performers, including Keith Potger from The Seekers.*
The starter kit includes a song book, membership forms for clients, suggested format for practices, budget guideline and dementia information sheets.
This article first appeared on www.thesenior.com.au