Norridge singers specialize in soothing songs
Joan Maxwell (left) of Chicago and Anne Bogacki of Park Ridge warm-up with the Central Baptist Village Threshold Singers. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:08AM
NORRIDGE — Barb Peterhansen was looking to do something that would allow her to give back to her community.
“I wanted to get more involved, now that I have the time,” said the retired schoolteacher who lives in Norridge. “I’ve always worked with children.”
Peterhansen is one of eight women who have come together as Threshold Singers to provide “songs of comfort” to residents at Central Baptist Village, a Norridge residence for seniors of all faiths.
Her mother, Helen Oaks, is a resident.
The group is sponsored by Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care, which provides end-of-life care as well as counseling services throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.
Leading the a cappella group through its third rehearsal recently was Joan Maxwell, a Rainbow Hospice Threshold Choir member.
The group will visit residents to provide comfort through song to those who face illness and death, according to Julie Stevens of Central Baptist. The goal is not so much to entertain as it is to ease and comfort those who may be confused, agitated, lonely or in pain.
“We support end of life,” Maxwell said. “We regard death as we do birth.
“It’s something for which you prepare and share. Death is a natural, sacred transition.
“No one is born alone,” she added. “No one should die alone.”
Park Ridge resident Anne Bogacki, who comes from a singing family, said she didn’t know she was engaging in music therapy when she would hum tunes as she went about her nursing duties.
“It was just a natural thing,” she said. “And this sound is so unique, they way the voices blend.
“This is a release for me, too,” she added.
Bogacki also noted the power of music, recalling many a time when a song would help a person breathe more rhythmically.
Virginia Kokinda said it is more common than in the past for many seniors to spend their days alone.
“It’s so different today,” she said “So many people have children who live out of town.
“So many are alone.”
Kokinda started volunteering at Central Baptist when her sister, Rita Guzzi, was a resident.
“This place became my second home,” she said.
Joining the Threshold Singers was a logical step for her.
“I thoroughly enjoy singing,” she said. “I learned from my mother.
“And to be there at that special time of life, I could see the benefit” of soothing song.
Joann Schmidt of Elmwood Park observed how music can touch those in need of comfort.
“They are so appreciative of the little things.
“It is through dying that we learn about living,” she continued. “And in living, we learn about dying.”
Pamela Yoelin comes from LaGrange Park.
“I love to sing,” she said. “Sometimes soothing words are the best accompaniment at this sacred time.”
Sue Bolens sings at the residence’s Catholic Mass every Tuesday and performs in a ukulele group.
“I wanted to do something that I didn’t have to drive to,” said the Chicago resident about her mission to bring music to those in need of comfort. “Some people don’t want to talk, so I sing or play the ukulele.
“And I get pleasure from singing.”
Maxwell and Marge Prohaska both thought the program was a great idea.
“I thought of what they wanted to do, and what a great thing it was,” Maxwell said.
“Marge told me, ‘You’re in.’ There was no discussion,” Maxwell said with a laugh.
Although her skills were geared to the younger set, Peterhansen has found they also can apply when working with older folks.
“I’ve realized,” she said, “that there are needs in all areas.”