As Parkinson's Disease (PD) progresses, many find that their voices become quiet, raspy and enunciation difficult. Communication suffers. They also often find that their breathing becomes more shallow. This is because PD can affect every muscle of the body - not just those for walking but those for talking like diaphragm, tongue, jaw. Singing regularly exercises the muscles required for voice production and projection. Hence, in Toowoomba, we formed The Park 'n' Songs Choir. The group started to get together at the end of 2016 and then, after sorting out the logistics of where, when and how opened its doors in 2017. In addition to therapeutic benefits, the camaraderie and social aspect of the choir is a bonus to us all!
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Often people say this and our simple response is 'neither can we'! Quite a few of the group can hold a tune (and thank heavens for them) but the rest of us join in for the important benefits and fun of the breathing/singing exercises and enjoyable songs. Please do not feel that, if you never considered yourself a singer in the past or present, you cannot join this choir. We are not a choral choir; we are a therapeutic group who sing. Perhaps the following saying holds true for a number of reasons!
He who sings frightens away his ills ...
Miguel de Cervante
You do not need to be a member of the Toowoomba Parkinson's Support Group to come to choir. However it is best to contact us first to ensure that you turn up on a Friday that is scheduled.
Just phone Joe and Carol Chalmers on 46597646 and they will be able to fill you in on all the information!
The choir is a very welcoming and friendly group. We have a lot of fun.
The only thing better than singing is more singing.
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Our choir leaders now total 4 and they roster themselves to lead the group in core exercises and singing, by providing voice and musical accompaniment. We owe them a debt we can never repay for all their inspired work with us.
Melissa Forbes was involved in the formation of our Park ‘n’ Song choir group in 2017. As a Senior Lecturer in the music discipline within the School of Creative Arts at USQ for over ten years, she has developed an interest in how people experience singing. This has led to her research with a focus on singing and well-being. As a singer, Melissa has performed nationally and internationally and has recorded two albums. Her Spotify royalties, from these releases, fuel her much-cherished coffee habit!
Elaine Coates has sung all her life - literally! She did a mean "I'm a Little Teapot" as a toddler and progressed from there through choirs, competitions and performances until she hit the musical desert of western Queensland. Quite some years later, when she hit the musical cornucopia of Toowoomba, she threw herself headlong into so much singing that she had to go to the Conservatorium to learn how to teach it. In her 32 years here, she has also conducted 9 community choirs and is delighted to add helping out at Park 'n' Song as her latest adventure.
Cheryl Brown is a retiree and comes from a working life background as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings in and around Toowoomba. She sings and plays instruments in a multicultural women’s choir, the Toowoomba Ukulele Group and rocks up Tuesday nights to the Irish Pub to play Irish songs with a bunch of like minded musicians. With vastly varying degrees of expertise, she enjoys singing, guitar, violin, ukulele, mandolin, tin whistle and percussion. When not playing musical instruments she can likely be found attempting to tame her wild and extensive backyard or reading a book.
Alison Noller Despite learning an assortment of musical instruments in her younger years, Alison only came to choral singing as an adult by joining Women in Harmony choir about 15 years ago. Since then, singing in groups has become the joy of her life, so she happily embraced the opportunity to come and sing with the Park 'n' song choir. A conductor workshop with Women
in Harmony friends started the growth of her skill set into leading and facilitating, which she’s been delighted to share with Park 'n' song. Now
retired, Alison’s working life included being a classroom teacher, and delivering education sessions for a non-government organization and for USQ.
Our choir accompanists now total 3, although others often join in. We can have guitar, tin whistle, drum, piano, piano accordion - all delightfully played. Just having their strong voices alone assists hugely in our sessions.
Jane Hobbs worked as a librarian in the Toowoomba City Library for forty years…. longer than some (actually, many) of the other staff had been alive…a fact that some of them found a little alarming, she suspects. Her Mum enrolled her in a correspondence course to play guitar when she was 12, and this became the catalyst for much joy and music ever since. Park 'n' Song is the most recent activity in that progression.
Sheryl Kreusler is a retired English/Maths high school teacher. She has really enjoying reconnecting with her music since retirement. Sheryl writes songs which she plays at the Toowoomba Folk Club, often joins (on accordion) the Session players at the Irish Club Tuesday nights, and sings with the Women in Harmony choir. Many of Sheryl's songs are inspired by bush walking and travelling experiences. She plays scrabble with friends and is in a book club.
Margaret O'Mara When Margaret was a child, she felt fortunate that her parents paid for her to receive Piano Lessons which kindled in her a love of music. Irish music and dancing were
major influences during her younger years. Margaret has resurrected this joy in her
retirement after almost 45 years in the State Public Service. For the past 10 years, Margaret has been a member of the Women in Harmony Multi-
Cultural Choir and it was through their Musical Director, Elaine, that she first heard of Park’n’Song. Margaret plays Bodhran and Tin Whistle with the Tuesday night Session Players at the Irish Club along with Cheryl & Sheryl and, as we do at Park’n’Song, has fun making music! In Margaret's opinion, 'What would we do without it?'
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Jonathon Welch, conductor of The Choir of Hard Knocks fame, visited our Park 'n' Songs Choir in Toowoomba recently. We always have a wonderful time singing together with our amazing leaders but, having Jonathon guide our group was truly an experience none of us will ever forget. His presence was more than special - he has a joy of singing, of life, and of making a difference to people's lives through music. We were just so very fortunate to meet Jonathon and have him impart his knowledge, lead and sing with us. We had a ball!
In early days, our choir forged an excellent relationship with the School of Creative Arts, USQ. Melissa Forbes, former Senior Lecturer (Contemporary Singing-Music), has supported our group from its inception and we are very grateful. In our five years together, the Park 'n' Songs Choir has been involved in a number of fun activities - thanks to our former choir leader, Clare, who kept her finger on the pulse of Parkinson's singing around the world. We sang a medley of wartime songs at Peacehaven Park on Remembrance Day, 2018. We were part of a worldwide research study in 2017/18, Sing to Beat Parkinson's . Then in 2019 we joined other Parky Choirs from around the world to present Sing! Some of us also joined a virtual choir for People with Parkinson's during the COVID lockdown. In 2023 we sent a video to the Parkinson's Festival of Singing - an International Festival run out of Iowa State University. Click on the links below to watch us in action.
Here is a link to an article published by Melissa Forbes in Psychology of Music. This is a highly ranked international journal and Melissa's study was about the effects for CAREGIVERS who regularly accompanied their partners to our choir.