Then one day my brother was inspired to sing, in Hebrew, a song my father had sung almost every Friday night of his life, a song about angels of peace. As soon as Laz began singing, my father fell silent and became calm. When the song was done, he said “Yes” and hung up the phone. In his last few days, my ninety-six-year-old father also frequently cried out to his mother, though she’d been gone for more than sixty years.
California choir director Kate Munger had a similar experience when she sang for a friend dying of AIDS. Recognizing the power of music to soothe those who are close to death—especially women’s voices, recalling as they do the comforting sounds of mothers and lullabies—Munger founded the first Threshold Choir in 2000.
There are now more than fifty Threshold Choirs all over the United States—including, for the past year and a half, one in Ann Arbor. Tammy Corwin-Renner, director of the Ann Arbor choir, was inspired by her own experience when her mother lay dying three and a half years ago. “She was always saying ‘Tammy, play me a song,’” Corwin-Renner remembers. “I played music on the piano and the harp, and I sang to her. When she died, I knew that I would become some kind of musician in hospice, but it didn’t feel right to play instrumental music. So when I heard about the Threshold Choir last April, I knew immediately.”