Unitarian Universalist Compassionate Choirs
What is a Compassionate Choir?
Compassionate choirs offer music at the bedside or in the home. The groups may sing for those in hospice, and also for those who are sick or in long-term care. While some are for female voices only, they often include voices of all genders. The song repertoire includes simple songs and chants, sometimes composed by choir members, as well as familiar hymns and seasonal songs. Some choirs also include oldies, some popular music, show tunes and patriotic songs.
Membership in a compassionate choir offers spiritual growth and connection to choir members as well as comfort to those for whom (and sometimes with whom) they sing.
What Are Some Models for Unitarian Universalist Involvement in Compassionate Choirs?
Here are a few possible models; please email adultprograms [at] uua [dot] org (subject: compassionate%20choirs) if you would like your congregation's choir included in this list:
Community-Based Choir; Congregational Music Director Directs
These groups are open to a people of all faith traditions or no faith tradition.
- Voices Lifted Music Ministry, directed by Rev. Kellie Walker Hart, started with support from Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Chandler, AZ and the UUA Fund for Social Responsibility. For more, see the photo in the page sidebar.
- Tourmaline Singers of Central Maine, is directed by Harry Vayo, Music Director of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Waterville, ME. View a 2014 news story with photos and video.
- Harbour Singers of Southern Maine, is directed by Ellie Rolnick, Choir Director, Unitarian Universalist Church of Saco and Biddeford. In October 2015, Harbour Singers hosted a statewide conference on bedside singing that brought together 80 people from nine different hospice choirs for sharing and learning. View news coverage of the event.
Congregationally-Based Choir; Part of Music Ministry
Compassionate choirs are part of the music ministry of some Unitarian Universalist congregations. Congregationally-based choirs are typically in close touch with the congregation's ministry and pastoral care teams, and sing for members of their faith community as part of the congregation's pastoral care ministry.
- First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, NM, has a pastoral care choir called Sol Singers. Music Director Susan Peck writes that Sol Singers "sing meditative and healing songs and chants, to heal themselves and to share music with our community. We make visits to folks in the hospital."
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA, has a SHINE Choir, Singing to Heal, Inspire, Nurture and Energize, directed by Bea Ann Phillips. SHINE offers members and friends of all ages the opportunity to explore the healing power of music through singing to comfort and support those in need. No auditions, no choral experience, and no long-term commitment needed. For more, see the story in the page sidebar.
- First Parish in Concord, MA has a compassionate choir called By Your Side Singers. This group works with the pastoral care ministry team, singing for those who are in hospice care, in long-term care, sick, or otherise in transition. For more, please see the story in the page sidebar or view the group's brochure.
- First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX, By Your Side Singers began meeting in October 2015, singing for those who need pastoral care.
- Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, NC, has a group called MOM (Ministry of Music) that sings with people (primarily members and their family members) who are in sick, dying, or in long-term care. Music Director Yuri Yamamoto, writes, "Once I was one of the three people who sang at a deathbed of a choir member. That was a powerful experience."
- All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK, describes SpiritSong singers as an integral part of both their music and pastoral care ministries. The congregation's website lifts up the purpose and philosophy of SpiritSong: "The singers and group leaders are honored and grateful to be welcomed into a family’s intimate circle and to stand as loving witnesses to the sacred process of dying.We believe this practice is a step towards changing cultural attitudes and behaviors around death and dying."
Congregational Singing Groups Who Include Music for Bedside Singing in Their Repertoire
- JUUL Tones, the a capella group of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, CA, while not specifically a compassionate choir, has developed a repertoire of songs used for visitation, farewells, and other transitional occasions.