The Voices in Motion choir is led by Erica Phare-Bergh on Sunday. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

The Voices in Motion choir is led by Erica Phare-Bergh on Sunday. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

Saanich choir Christmas concert gives a voice to dementia sufferers

The benefits of singing together are numerous

A local choir put on a winter concert on Sunday afternoon to help de-stigmatize dementia and improve the health of participants with Alzheimer’s or dementia and the people who care for them through song.

READ MORE: New choir strikes a chord for people with dementia

Voices in Motion is a choir for adults with memory loss, their caregivers, friends, and students. The choir began in September 2017 as a research project undertaken by the nursing, psychology, sociology and music departments at the University of Victoria to study how participating in a choir can help those with dementia and the people who care for them.

Voices in Motion choir director Erica Phare-Bergh said leading the choir has been the most amazing gift. “I did not expect this to be such an incredible journey. I’m moved by the courage of people as they face this journey,” Phare-Bergh said.

Phare-Bergh said the researchers at UVic have found that stigma has gone down, depression has gone down, cortisol levels have been going up in people because they’ve been singing, and caregiver stress has gone down. “It’s not that it lessened their situation, but it helped them reframe what is happening and gives them an option to do something that’s really meaningful,” she said.

Phare-Bergh said she demands a lot of her choir. “One of the most fun things to do is to see that there is actually a shift as a group in the technical aspects of singing too because that means that there’s growth as well. It’s not like somebody is always making the same mistake every time – they don’t.”

Wendy Casey (middle) travels to Saanich from Mill Bay with her mother every week to participate in the Voices in Motion choir. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

Choir member, and caregiver for her mother who has dementia, Wendy Casey said she has seen these benefits for her mother first-hand. She said her mom has no short-term memory because of the disease, but she has been making some new memories with the choir, something Casey said isn’t supposed to happen for people with dementia.

Casey said her mother has been able to recognize Phare-Bergh and remember the words to songs she learned in the choir even though she can’t remember Casey’s cousin who she has known for years. “I would say that it’s the singing that’s doing it because she doesn’t recognize other people,” Casey said.

“The frontal lobe is what’s normally affected in Alzheimer’s and that’s the part that so much of our life and our memories draw on,” said Phare-Bergh. “But when you sing together as a choir what they’ve noticed in the research they did at UVic is that it draws on all the other parts of the brain and that kind of comes to the rescue of the frontal lobe.”

“I wish we were doing more testing because my mom is a kick-ass scrabble player,” Casey said. “She’s slowly losing it, but I’d really like to have seen her scrabble game before and at the end of this.”

Phare-Bergh said there will be more research conducted with the choir, starting in January 2020.

READ MORE: Choir study shows people with dementia can learn new songs

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow @yrlocaljourno

MusicSeniors

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read