How Do You Deal With The Loss of a Choir Member?
“The song is ended, but the melody lingers on” – Irving Berlin
This month’s blog post is a personal one and was prompted by the loss of three of our very own choir members in the past few weeks. It is a sad time and hard to comprehend that we will no longer hear their voices when we return to rehearsals in a few short weeks, and yet, there is comfort in the memories we have shared with them. So what happens when a choir member passes, and how do you deal with it in a sensitive and comforting way? Not only have you lost an important member of your choir, but your members have lost a friend, a confidant, a fellow Alto, Bass or Soprano or possibly even a family member – it’s important to acknowledge the loss and allow your members time to express, not only their sadness but also the joy that person bought to their lives.
Connecting with your choir after loss
For most, joining a choir becomes a huge part of who they are, so when someone passes, their friends and family will feel a connection and may reach out to let you know of their loved one’s passing. It is then up to you to share the news in a compassionate and comforting way. If a long-term illness was involved, their passing may have been expected, but there is also the possibility this could have been sudden and, therefore, a shock. Before making an announcement, consider writing a brief Eulogy that reflects the member’s impact on your choir. Find appropriate photographs showing their personality and share the circumstances of their passing in your private social media group or via email, allowing your members to comment.
Finding a way to share stories
Create a platform, whether via an online card, physical card, memory box, social media post or video, where your members can share their uplifting stories, memories, photographs and tributes. It is highly unlikely your entire choir will attend the celebration of life/funeral, so this can be an excellent way for your members to honour their memory and can later be shared with the loved ones of those who have passed.
Remembering and healing through song
During term time, take a few moments to dedicate (and have your choir sing) a song in honour of their fellow member. It might be their favourite song, or a piece you feel represents their personality but make it uplifting – the tears may flow, but music is healing, and there will be a sense of comfort, knowing you took the time to remember them. Alternatively, you could reach out to the family and offer to provide a recording of the choir singing one of their favourite songs – we often shy away from approaching people while they are grieving because it is “difficult”, but you will have been a big part of that person’s life, and your, connection, kindness and candour will be appreciated more than you know. If you do happen to be invited to the funeral/celebration of life, performing the choir member’s favourite song live would surely be the greatest honour of all, however emotionally challenging this might be. If a live performance is not possible, sharing a video of the choir performing a selection of songs from a recorded performance at the wake, featuring the choir member who has passed away, might also be a special way to honour the memory of a person who took so much joy and happiness from being part of your community.
Have you ever considered a Threshold Workshop?
A few years ago, we were contacted by The Threshold Choir, who were interested in running a collaborative workshop to spread the word of their unique and compassionate service. A little sceptical, we pursued the opportunity and were incredibly uplifted to learn how, through music and song, terminally ill patients and their families could be comforted at the very end – the threshold of their lives. This was not a sad, sombre workshop but rather an incredibly uplifting experience, shared with an amazing group of men and women. The Threshold Choir love to share their music and stories, and for any Choir Leader looking to convey music’s true power and beauty at one of life’s most challenging times, a visit from this wonderfully talented Choir taught us how to share our music with confidence, even under such sad circumstances.
There are many ways to acknowledge the loss of a choir member; the important thing is that you do it in a way that works specifically for your choir. Sometimes circumstances will dictate how much or how little you can do, but be confident in your approach and be sincere with all those involved. Having just experienced three losses in as many weeks, our hearts are broken but having spoken personally to all three families; we know our approach has been truly appreciated.
Did you enjoy our blog? Check out our other blogs on all choir related topics