Choir's online sing-alongs create fun, supportive community for those with Parkinson's disease

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Every Monday, the Parkinsingers Choir meets online for their weekly sing-along rehearsal. Marjorie Samoff founded the choir in 2015 as an initiative of Music Matters International.

"The purpose of the group is to use music to help people with Parkinson's and other movement disorders alleviate their symptoms," said Samoff, founder and president of the Parkinsingers Choir and Music Matters International in Philadelphia.

Care partners and spouses are welcome to participate in the choir rehearsals too, which are led by music director, Holly Phares.

"My job is to help them sing," said Phares. She gives them vocal exercises that enable them to extend their range and increase their breath support.

Samoff says that people with Parkinson's frequently have a weakening of their voice and that singing and practicing these types of vocal exercises helps to strengthen their voice.

Before COVID, the choir met in person and put on two concerts a year.

"They just love singing together and we've had to adapt," said Phares.

Choir members have continued rehearsals, but now they are done online from home. "Everybody's singing in their living room or their kitchen."

Choir members say the group offers much more than singing. Their online meetings start with a social half hour so members can chat and catch up.

Parkinsingers Choir member Katherine Huseman says the group has become a community.

"We inspire each other to be our best selves and to live with Parkinson's as well as we can," she said.

Hop Sears, a fellow choir member, agrees and says he has a lot of fun with the group.

"It's a lot of musical variety," he said. "We are encouraged to not just sing, but to participate in choosing songs."

"You're creating something that's larger than yourself," said Huseman. "That gives you a purpose."

"I believe in the power of music," said Samoff.

It's one of the reasons she founded the Parkinsingers Choir, which she says is "the most life-enhancing project you can imagine."

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