By Dianne Morse
Three years ago I retired from the Marshfield public school system as a math coach at the middle school level. Throughout my teaching career, I was always partial to working with struggling learners and special needs students. Last December I saw a Facebook post about South Shore Conservatory’s SSC Community Voices program for developmentally-delayed adults. It intrigued me and I hoped I’d qualify. Little did I know at the time, but singing ability was not a prerequisite for this group! I contacted Creative Arts Therapy Director Eve Montague right away and offered to be a singing partner.
The first rehearsal I attended was held in January, 2017. I loved the enthusiastic welcome that was given to each singer as they arrived. Directors Eve and Amanda handed out the ‘music’ which consisted only of large print lyrics. As they handed it out they asked each participant, “Are you reading tonight?” This touched me as so respectful of each person‘s ability and dignity as an adult with special needs. Some of the singers are unable to read, some are blind, some don’t sing at all, some don’t sing anything close to what everyone else is singing, some have perfect pitch, some know all the lyrics after only listening to a song once, but all blend somehow in this wonderfully inclusive group.
From that first night I was sure I’d be returning weekly. On Monday nights I sing with the Snug Harbor Community Chorus at the Performing Arts Center in Duxbury. There I’m challenge to learn my part, breathe correctly, and to stay on key. I leave those Monday practices with my personal goals to practice the more difficult passages. In contrast, on Wednesday nights I leave Community Voices with a chuckle and a smiling heart.
When I arrive at CV rehearsal I always wonder where to sit. Shall I sit beside Jennifer? She lifts my spirit- she freely shares her exuberance, pretends to read the words but really just watches my mouth, and eventually gets us both in trouble by chatting with me. She always exclaims, “This is my favorite!” with every song we sing. Shall I sit beside Patrick? He reaches out to touch my hand whenever he’s anxious. Liz always claps too loudly and Joe holds his notes long after Eve or Amanda has directed us to stop singing. All of my CV singing friends are interesting adults with special abilities.
Our spring concert was exciting! Not only was our Duxbury SSC Community Voices group singing at the Inly school in Scituate, but we combined with the Hingham SSC Community Voices group, and together numbered about 40 singers! After that concert a few of the people in the audience approached me and asked how I got involved. Since then a fellow teacher, Rena Lukoski of Hanover, has joined the group.
Our wonderful group of singers and new friends often see each other outside South Shore Conservatory on Wednesday nights. I’ve run into my singing buddies at the Wang Center, at Heritage Days in Scituate Harbor, in bowling alleys, craft shows, and in supermarkets. It’s fun to say hello and share smiles as we visit as friends. Joining Community Voices has been a unique way to experience the power and joy of music.
South Shore Conservatory’s SSC Community Voices in Duxbury and SSC Community Voices, Too! in Hingham present their holiday concerts on Wednesday, December 13,
7 pm. These performances are joyful and free. For more information, visit www.sscmusic.org.