Turner’s singers are from Newburyport, West Newbury, Salisbury and Haverhill. When she began Gentle Voices, she spent 10 months training her singers in the curriculum of death and dying, as well as music repertoire, before making visits.
“We offer practice every Sunday night,” Turner said. “They are not mandatory. Practices are a mix of singing and supporting each other in this work.”
Turner is sensitive to the history that each singer brings with them. Sometimes, events at bedside can be triggers for their own past losses.
Gentle Voices has a standing weekly 90-minute date with the long-term care facility at the Brooksby Village retirement community in Peabody. The singers visit those who can no longer participate in group activities or leave their beds.
“They come to heal the spirit, which needs to be addressed as much as the body,” said Anna Smulowitz Schutz, a chaplain at Brooksby Village. “This is nirvana. It is so mesmerizing that people, whatever they are doing, they stop in their tracks and just listen. We all feel comforted when we hear them sing.”
Kathy Weinstock, a singer from Newburyport, says that many memories have been generated for the singers, as well.
“Memorable moments include being asked by a family to sing at the memorial service for a woman whom we became very friendly with during her decline,” Weinstock said. “She had initially refused to have us sing for her when we first approached her.”
Jan Gurley, also a chaplain at Brooksby Village, calls Gentle Voices a “beautiful program.”
“It’s quite beautiful,” she said. “(All the residents) comment on it. Even the residents down the hall can hear. People are mesmerized. It is a beautiful way to be ushered out of this world.”