Making kindness audible

River in the Fall

What if we are offered the gift of compassion and kindness through songs that help us cross the last threshold of our lives?

This is the purpose of the Threshold Choir, a community of volunteer of a cappella singers who “sing for and with those at the thresholds of life.”

The Choir came into being in the 90’s when Kate Munger, its founder, intuitively started singing at the bedside of a friend who was dying as a way of finding courage and strength.

She noticed that the experience offered healing and comfort to both of them, and the initial seed for this beautiful community was planted. Currently, there is a network of about 120 choirs in the US, Canada, England, Scotland, Australia and Cambodia.

Agnieszka Wolska is the leading force behind Calgary’s new Chapter of Threshold Choir. When asked about how she was called to do this work, she says “I knew I had a voice, but I was not a performer.”

“I wanted my signing to be about giving others the beauty of it.”

Since early 2015, Agnieszka has been working to build the Calgary’s Chapter with people who feel moved by this work, and who want to offer their voices as a gift to those who are suffering.

Currently, the choir has 15 committed members.

While many Threshold Choirs have a wide-ranging repertoire, including spiritual favourites, the organization has a very rich repertoire of songs written specifically for and by members of the Choirs.

“We sing songs that are not familiar to the person, that do not reconnect them with their past, we sing songs that move them forward,” says Agnieszka. Each song is a soothing invitation to accept the movement and cross the threshold.

“Life, Grace, Trust” is one of these songs: “I live my life in a river of grace, and I trust this river will carry me home”. The lyrics, spiritual in nature, but not related to any particular religion, offer comfort in a compassionate way.

They create a safe space for the expression of grief.

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Support has come in different forms for the Choir. Sarah Kerr, Calgary’s Death midwife, was the first person to introduce Agnieszka to the work of Kate Munger, and is committed to promoting their work. Jan Alexander, Director of the Vancouver and Sunshine Coast Threshold Choirs, has also played a significant role in offering mentorship, support and training opportunities.

What does the future hold for Calgary’s Threshold singers? The Choir has plans to start singing in the city’s hospices soon.

Singing at bedsides will come a little further down the road. The intention moving forward: “As our founder Kate Munger has beautifully put it, we are making kindness audible”, says Agnieszka.

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