Love, Music, Memory: Sing Anything (Alzheimer’s Stories) | The Mississippi Chorus

Love, Music, Memory: Sing Anything (Alzheimer’s Stories)

Friday, October 27, 2017 at 7:30pm

Love, Music, Memory: Sing Anything (Alzheimer’s Stories)

While certainly not new, the concept that music —listening to it/making it—has the ability to unlock human potential, even when normal forms of communication have been altered. This is particularly true, and well-documented, in the Alzheimer patient.

The Mississippi Chorus will perform the piece Alzheimer Stories by Robert Cohen in concert (with additional works, pre-concert lecture, and post-concert Q&A with the composer) in three locales within our state to raise awareness, and provide resources and education to three communities in Mississippi – North, South and the Capitol City.

The Mississippi Chorus, a non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation is seeking partners among the professional communities with agencies, organizations, and programs that support education, research, and provide resources about Alzheimer’s disease to help structure, market and secure funding for the concerts.

Director's notes

In 2007, a member of the Susquehanna Valley Chorale who asked to remain anonymous made a donation to the chorale to help fund the commissioning of a musical work on the subject of Alzheimer’s disease to honor his parents, who had both died of it. In collaboration with 2012 Grammy Award winning opera librettist Herschel Garfein (Elmer Gantry), a blog was set up on the choir’s website to record stories by chorus members and the local community describing experiences with relatives and friends who had Alzheimer’s disease with a selected group of those stories becoming the basis for the work: Alzheimer’s Stories for soloists, chorus and large ensemble.

The work is in three movements the arc of which loosely mimics the progression of the disease:

The Numbers

an objective description of the discovery of the disease by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1901 including the number of individuals currently afflicted, future projections and dramatized conversations between Dr. Alzheimer and his first patient, Auguste Dieter. The movement ends with an extended setting of a quote from his patient Ich hab mich verloren, “I have lost myself.”

The Stories

a pastiche of a number of selected stories taken from the choir’s blog. With a mixture of pathos, poignancy and humor, we meet a number of individuals afflicted with the disease, portrayed by the two soloists, as well as the recollections of family members. Two notables: a woman who still thinks she’s on a boat to Panama with her father; and a WWII Navy veteran who repeats the same bawdy story of the war so many times that the chorus can recite it by heart.

For the Caregivers

The most difficult part of writing a work about such a terrible and ultimately hopeless disease was how to end the work with some semblance of hope. The clue came in a recollection by one of the chorus members about a visit to a nursing home where a patient asked them to sing. When asked what, the patient replied: “Sing anything.” First referenced in the second movement, this idea became the centerpiece and focus of the last movement. The core of the brilliantly realized libretto is as follows:

Find those you love in the dark and light.

Help them through the days and nights.

Keep faith.

They sense what they cannot show.

Love and music are the last things to go.

Sing anything.

Alzheimer’s Stories received its world premiere on October 9, 2009 performed by the Susquehanna Valley Chorale at the Weis Center for the performing arts in Lewisburg PA in a program entitled “Monument to Memory.” It was recorded for radio and television by the PBS station WVIA and broadcast in November, 2009 and has had subsequent performances throughout the U.S. and in Europe and was recently performed at Carnegie Hall by the San Antonio Mastersingers.