Mary L. Serantoni | August 17, 2018
I call it the pixie-dust effect.” – Chris Rowlands
The season of summer in Arizona can appear low energy and less populated as a result of impending heatwaves and monsoons. Not so, for the East Valley Chorale under the direction of Dr. Bruce Cochran. This time is scheduled for rehearsing weekly, experimenting with new arrangements, preparing for a two-day recording session of their seventh CD, and presenting seven concerts from July through August. The commitment by Dr. Cochran and the Chorale members to serve their community remains steadfast.
Members share a love of singing Contemporary Christian Choral music and Hymn arrangements with a collective heart on fire. During summer months, the Chorale transitions from concerts at Churches and Retirement communities to include Assisted Living, Nursing Homes, and Memory Care facilities. The 2018 concert venues scheduled are the Arizona Veterans Home (Phoenix), Oasis at Mesa Palms (Mesa), Fellowship Square (Mesa), Mi Casa Nursing Home (Mesa), Good Shepard (Mesa), The Citadel (Mesa) and The Orchard Mesa (Mesa).
The singers often witness unforgettable audience reactions. Many Alzheimer and Dementia residents experience the music “shifting to a second site in the brain, called the dorsal fronto-parietal network. This region is responsible for maintaining attention and updating the memory.” Krieger, Lisa M. “When the music stops, the brain gets going.” The Mercury News (San Jose) 2 Aug. 2007. The power of music can awaken the brain and renew the memory. Many non-communicative residents are compelled to sing along, as lyric and melody return with fluidity. ‘How Great Thou Art’ by Stuart K. Hine transforms into a rousing hymn of meaningful conviction.
The Chorale continues to bring a joyful music ministry to Arizona facilities. There is a universal need for neurologically special music offerings. The Financial Times reports, “The Commission on Dementia and Music, a UK project backed by the Utley Foundation, a family charitable trust, aims to turn a “cottage industry” of programmes into a national policy of musical interventions for all dementia sufferers by 2020.” Dodd, Darren “How to harness music to fight dementia.” The Financial Times (London) 11 March 2018. The commission’s goals are further empowered by neurological studies citing “musical memory” as remaining essentially untouched by diseases such as Alzheimer’s. For that reason, musical interventions have been known to diminish anxiety, depression, and even result in a lessening of the more severe drug therapies. Consequently, the residents, Care center staff and family members eagerly anticipate annual concerts presented by the East Valley Chorale.
The anticipation is mutual. Post-concert gratitude is often interspersed with unexpected sharing. From the Veterans tears for brothers who never made it home — to the many seniors expressing feelings of abandonment at being forgotten. The East Valley Chorale has been serving Arizona communities for nineteen years. We are called to uplift, inspire and encourage… a life worth living.
- Krieger, Lisa M. “When the music stops, the brain gets going.” The Mercury News (San Jose) 2 Aug. 2007.
- Dodd, Darren “How to harness music to fight dementia.” The Financial Times (London) 11 March 2018.