What at first seemed like a simple request for permission to use one of my tunes nabbed me a new friend today, even though it wasn't my tune. It was Ann Lee's tune. Mother Ann founded the Shakers many moons ago. I came across a song she wrote called simply Mother Ann's Song and recorded it ten years ago.
At about the same time, Kate Munger founded the first Threshold Choir. I've met women who sing in Threshold Choirs around the country, and have admired the work they do for years. I never thought I'd meet Kate! She's very damn cool, and we go to the same church: The Church of Singing is the Direct Path to Spirit. Here's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the work:
Threshold Choir founder ministers to the dying 12/9/08
Shelah Moody, Chronicle Staff Writer
For Kate Munger, music is a healing force. In 2000, the retired music teacher started the Threshold Choir,
a group of women who sing at the bedsides of the terminally ill in private homes, hospitals and hospices across the country. There are chapters of the Threshold Choir in cities including Cincinnati, New York and Anchorage, Alaska.
Munger conducts seven choirs in San Francisco, the East Bay, Marin, Sonoma, Santa Cruz and other parts
of the Bay Area.
Munger, originally from Massachusetts, holds a master's degree in psychology and has been a choral
singer all of her life. She produced two CDs with the Threshold Choir, "Listening at the Threshold" and
"Tenderly Rain: Songs of Gratitude, Remembrance and Keeping Watch"; both are available on the choir's
Web site: www.thresholdchoir.org.
Munger came up with the concept for the Threshold choir in 1990. "I spent the day taking care of a friend who was dying of HIV/AIDS," said Munger. "I did chores all morning and all day, and in the afternoon, I sat by his bedside, and I just instinctively started singing. I sat by his bedside for about two hours; he was in a coma but he was agitated. As I sang for him, he got calmer and calmer, and I became calmer. At the end of the afternoon, I felt like I'd given and received an incredibly powerful gift." Munger thinks of her music as lullabies for the end of life. She recited the lyrics of a song she wrote for the choir: "If you knew who walks beside you on the way that you have chosen/ fear would be impossible." "We really don't think of our work as performance," said Munger. "We think of it as prayer. We go to a
bedside when someone who's heard about (the choir) thinks they would like to be sung to by one or two or three people. Usually, we start out with music of our own. ... Then we ask them what they want to hear, what their favorite type of music is. If we don't know it, we will learn it."
Every Friday for four years, Munger and the Threshold Choir have been singing with female inmates at
Marin County Jail. "To me, it's an opportunity for these women to experience freedom. At least vocally, they are free for one hour," said Munger.