Although the JF&CS Tremble Clefs are officially on summer break, that didn’t stop some of the group’s members from making music together. On June 24 and Aug. 5, members of our choral group for people with Parkinson’s disease met for two informal sessions, dubbed “Summer Sings.” Held in members’ homes, these meetings were a great opportunity for friends to catch up during the Tremble Clefs’ summer hiatus.

Putting the Band Back Together

“We missed getting together each week,” said Marilyn Neault, who has been singing with the Tremble Clefs for two years. Neault hosted the first Summer Sing at her home after Jane Knuttunen, another group member, proposed the innovative idea.

“I had been thinking about doing something like this for years,” said Knuttunen. “When the Tremble Clefs are on summer break for three months, we miss singing together and keeping our voices strong. So, this summer, I started talking with other people in the group to see if they would be interested in getting together.”

Around 16 people came to the Summer Sing in June, which included group members, their spouses and volunteers. “There are five volunteers from the Cambridge Community Chorus who sing with us and keep us on pitch,” explained Neault. “All five of them came to the first Summer Sing. It was incredibly kind of them.”

During their typical rehearsals, the Tremble Clefs are conducted by their musical director, Marilyn Okonow, and accompanied by live piano music provided by Joe Reid. Since Okonow and Reid couldn’t make it to the Summer Sing, attendees made use of prerecorded music and read song lyrics from Neault’s TV screen.

“It was more of a sing-along,” recalls Neault. “It wasn’t as disciplined as our normal sessions.” The looser agenda of the Summer Sings prompted some toe tapping, hand clapping, spontaneous harmonization and generally “hamming it up,” as Neault puts it.

In addition to oldies and show tunes, the group sang Greg Rice’s original song “It’s Up to Us,” which was performed by the Boston Civic Symphony after the Boston Marathon bombing to honor the victims of recent mass shootings. The group also tried out a new song Neault is working on called “Pirouette,” and helped her by offering some suggestions after giving it a spin. After one of the sessions, Karen Sauer, a professional singer-songwriter, treated the group to a few of her songs.

Maintaining the Community Connection

The two Summer Sings filled a void for many Tremble Clefs members. While singing has been linked with therapeutic benefits for those living with Parkinson’s disease, the social aspect of the choral group is just as significant. “It is so important to be with other people with Parkinson’s and do something together,” said Neault.

While the Tremble Clefs usually meet at a church in Newton, members enjoyed visiting each other’s homes for the Summer Sings. Speaking about the August gathering, which was held at Greg Rice’s home, Neault noted, “It was nice to visit the house of someone else with Parkinson’s to see all the creative ways he had adapted his home.”

Although the Summer Sings were hugely successful, group members are looking forward to the return of regular Tremble Clefs rehearsals on Sept. 9. “The Summer Sings really made us appreciate our professional musical director and accompanist,” said Neault. “They are terrific!”

JF&CS provides arts-based therapeutic activities, education, resources and a supportive community for people with Parkinson’s disease and their families. For more information about all of the services we offer, visit our Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support page.

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