Music for the Thresholds of Life

 

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the November 2018 Issue

Threshold Choir

Music for the Thresholds of Life

There is little question that music can be powerful--especially during those moments of crisis, when the right song speaks to the soul. A new concept in music is sweeping the nation, called threshold music. It is gentle acapella singing, designed to bring comfort to people during life’s transitions, whether it is a birth, a crisis, or the end of a life. 

“The music is not meant for entertainment, it is a private blessing, a lullaby, at the bedside of the needy,” said Lisa Wynn, the director of the first Threshold Choir in Oklahoma. “I’ve sung in various capacities my whole life, but this is very different. It’s simple, peaceful, sometimes chant-like. The lyrics are very affirming, with phrases like: “Love surrounds you,” “Rest easy,” or “Let trouble rest.”’ 

In September, the group launched its free service to the community. As a former oncology nurse, Wynn wanted to do meaningful work in the health field after she retired, so she became a hospice chaplain. Now, Wynn has found an avenue to incorporate her lifelong love of music into her personal ministry of easing people through the process of dying. 

“I’ve played musical instruments and sung my whole life. In 2008, I began playing my harp as a bedside therapy,” Wynn said. “Last year, I attended an out-of-state, women’s singing retreat and learned about the worldwide threshold choir movement. I came back and presented the idea to the community singing circle I was directing in Edmond. They immediately embraced the idea, so we began formal training.”

The requirements are simple: agree to join the Threshold Choir organization, attend regular rehearsals, and commit to learning the music while striving to sing softly and blend in so that no one’s voice sticks out. There’s no need to read music because most of it is learned by rote. Some songs are even in other languages.

“Some people were told as children that they couldn’t sing—but their heart still wants to sing. We welcome anyone who has a heart to do this kind of work. This is music as ministry, not music as performance. Some people just want to be in the singing circle to sing in fellowship, but aren’t in a place to sing at a bedside.”

Despite training, those who do sing in a hospice situation feel nervous in the beginning, but Wynn has observed that the need to ease a patient quickly becomes the primary focus. “The ego stuff goes away and you see the impact of the music. Sometimes a hospice patient seems unaware, but hearing is one of the last things to go, so you don’t know how you are touching their spirit.”

Wynn is always ready to serve the elderly. “Anyone can contact me and I’ll coordinate a time and available singers. We mostly send small groups to sing at the bedside of the dying, but other requests are welcome, too. We recently sang at an infusion center for patients undergoing chemotherapy. It’s a profoundly meaningful ministry, and it’s a blessing to the family and caregivers, too,” Wynn said. “If this resonates with you, just follow your heart and come sing.” 

The Threshold Choir meets at 6:15pm on the 2nd and 4th Thursday at Conversations in downtown Edmond. Search SpiritSong Threshold Singers to learn more.

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