Across North America and Europe, a very special group of singers, known as the Threshold Choir, have made it their mission to bring peace and solace to those nearing death. In all, there are more than 150 chapters, eight of which are based in Western Canada.
One such group is the Saskatoon Threshold Singers. Co-directed by Karla Combres and Kathryn Green, this collective formed a year ago and features 12 singers.
“Our gift is very simple, it’s only singing,” said Combres in an interview with Global News. “We’re not there to do anything but to offer our gift of song.”
Added Green: “We see sometimes with the loved ones who are present in the room, that I almost feel like we’re singing [songs] for them. We’re singing what they would like to share with their loved one who is nearing the end of life.”
For the Threshold Choir, the goal is to bring “a calm and focused presence at the bedside, with gentle voices, simple songs, and sincere kindness.” To help accomplish this, small groups of singers (2-4 at a time) perform gentle songs, many of which have been composed by Threshold Choir members to “communicate ease, comfort and presence.”
The songs are “not religiously oriented,” but they are “appropriate for those who are deeply spiritual, whether religious or not.” Performances are free and generally last about 20 minutes.
“All the songs have been written expressly for the purpose of singing to people on the threshold of living and dying, and so they are very comforting,” offered Combres.
Amy Bunce, the Spiritual Care Director at Saskatoon’s Samaritan Place care home, has seen the positive impact of the region’s Threshold Singers firsthand.
“There’s a lot of feelings that people don’t know how to express,” said Bunce. “Music is universal. It’s across cultures, across spiritualties. It creates a space for people.”
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