Seattle Threshold Singers
Gather us together, Spirit of Harmony.
Arise in us, Loving-kindness.
Blend our voices in beauty and peace,
That they may nourish and comfort.
~Marilyn Power Scott
The Seattle Threshold Singers offer the gift of singing for people who are seriously ill, dying, or grieving. Our songs are simple messages of love and kindness. Through this gentle music, we seek to create moments of grace in difficult times.
Where We Sing
Before the pandemic, we sang weekly in several skilled nursing facilities in the Seattle area, as well as in private homes for people on hospice. As restrictions ease, we expect to resume bedside singing at these facilities.
Singing at the Bedside
When invited, a small group (2-4 of our volunteers) comes to sing quietly at the bedside for a comfortable length of time — perhaps 15-30 minutes. We are sensitive to the physical and emotional needs of the individual and always respect the desire for privacy and family time. Our quiet and tender singing is meant to soothe, comfort, and bring peace. We will sing rounds, chants, lullabies, hymns, spirituals, or other a cappella music from a variety of traditions. We also enjoy singing “oldies” with individuals who are alert and engaged and enjoy listening and/or singing along. The Seattle Threshold Singers honor all spiritual paths and have no religious affiliation. Family members and caregivers are invited to participate by listening or singing with us. Our service is our gift; there is no charge. We gratefully accept donations for our ongoing expenses.
Joining the Chapter
We are currently welcoming new singers into our chapter as invitations to sing at the bedside return after a nearly three-year hiatus. Singing with Threshold Choir is surely the best volunteer gig ever! You get to sing. You get to immerse yourself in a healing environment. You get to be of service, doing what you love, with people you are deeply fond of, for people you are likewise fond of. You get to participate in something meaningful and full of heart. You have the opportunity to learn and grow in so many ways, including stepping into leadership roles if you are so inclined.
What are the expections of Seattle Threshold Singers?
We ask that you:
- Have the time and capacity to attend all rehearsals whenever possible.
- Have the time and capacity to fully participate in the bedside training (see below).
- Upon satisfactory achievement of bedside singing requirements, have the time and capacity to sing at the bedside at least one time each month. Singing at facilities happens on weekday mornings or afternoons. Singing for hospice patients in their homes can happen any day of the week and may include early evening times as well as mornings or afternoons.
We ask that you are able to:
- Match pitch and carry a tune.
- Hold your own part while others sing in harmony. Bedside singing is not like being in a choral group where you can lean on other singers in your part. There will be only you singing your part with two others singing different parts (all our songs have two- or three-part harmonies).
- Sing softly and blend your voice with others.
- Sing without accompaniment.
- Learn the songs in our repertoire, which is divided into groups of songs called bouquets. It is not necessary that you read music.
- Intend to sing from memory a small collection of the songs we sing most often. Memorization gives you the freedom to be fully present at the bedside.
- Learn to sing at least two parts (within your range) of each song in our repertoire.
- Accept and welcome peer feedback and support in improving the quality of our singing. We aim to bring the clearest and most blended sound to our clients.
We actively tend to our culture in order to bring “singing as kindness” to those on the threshold of life. These are some of the values we desire to express with each other, in our song, and at the bedside:
- We value kindness, generosity, and an authentic sharing of who we are as human beings.
- We explore our ideas around death and dying and are comfortable in the presence of people who are seriously ill or dying.
- As we transition from a leader-led chapter to one that is leader-full, we aim to serve as a team, with each of us contributing as we are able; even small things make a difference.
- As we sing at the bedside, we seek to bring a deep presence and an awareness of what is happening around us.
- Singers have widely varying levels of experience, skill development, and vocal abilities and come from a variety of backgrounds. Some sing with professional choirs and some have just stepped out of the shower. Some read music, others learn by ear. In our chapter, you don’t need to have a “fancy” voice or be a music reader to participate.
- Also know that we rarely sing in the key of the sheet music; the pitch of the song is set by the bedside song leader to suit the ranges of the voices present at any given time. It may be lower or higher than the written key. If you have perfect pitch, consider whether this would be particularly bothersome for you.
We rehearse with masks on — and we look forward to the day we can delete this sentence. All singers must be up to date with Covid vaccinations in order to sing at rehearsals and at the bedside. Requirements for flu vaccinations and TB tests vary by facility.
Important to our growth are our weekly rehearsals, where we build our repertoire of songs, reflect on the service we provide, and get to know each other better. Since this is not a performance choir, we practice singing quietly together, carefully listening to one another and blending our voices. At most rehearsals, we have time for members to rest in a reclining chair in the center of our circle and experience being sung to by others. We also take time to sing our blessings and prayers to all about whom we care.
Our rehearsals are held on:
- First and third Thursday mornings from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Shoreline
- Second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:45 p.m. in the Wedgewood neighborhood of Seattle
Our bedside singing training for new members is offered once or twice a year as needed (times vary to accommodate participants). Our training is currently planned for late summer/early fall of 2023. Until then you will be getting to know the other singers and the repertoire.
What about access?
Both locations we currently rehearse at are wheelchair accessible, as are the facilities we sing in. So far all training has occurred in private homes which are not wheelchair accessible. We can explore the possibility of conducting training sessions at our rehearsal sites.
For those with limited mobility, the at-home locations have very few steps. The challenge will be the facilities. Sometimes there’s a fair amount of walking involved.
We have never had a blind singer in STS, but there are definitely blind singers in TCI. It is certainly doable once transportation has been taken care of.
Hard of hearing? We have several singers with hearing aids and they seem to have been able to adjust.
If you or someone you know would like to receive our gift of song, or if you are interested in singing with us, please contact us at [email protected].
If you would like to request bedside singers in West Seattle or the south end, or if you are interested in singing with us in that area, please contact South Seattle Threshold Singers.