If you show up to listen to the Bowen Island Threshold Singers, don’t expect to hear any familiar songs. Every song is composed and written with the intention of being unfamiliar.
“We don’t want to trigger any memories or potentially uncomfortable emotions,” says the group’s song-leader, Shasta Martinuk. “The whole point is to provide comfort, ‘comfort made audible’ is in fact the motto of the Threshold Choir.”
There are 150 Threshold Choirs around the world, and roughly 1,500 members. The organization’s founder is a woman named Kate Munger. In 1990, while sitting at the bedside of a dying friend she started to sing. The sense of calm that came over both of them inspired her to start the Threshold Choir.
The experience of being sung-to moved Bowen Islander Angie Bosworth to form our local chapter of the organization.
“It was about seven years ago, I’d say, that I was visiting my sister in Ohio and I attended her practice with the local Threshold group,” says Bosworth. “I lay there in the reclining chair at the centre of this group of singers and just cried and cried.”
Upon returning to Bowen, she tried to connect and attend practices with the Vancouver and Sunshine Coast groups, but their timing didn’t line up with Bosworth’s schedule.
Later, she found out that Munger was coming to Vancouver for an event, so Bosworth pulled together a small group of islanders and brought them there.
“This was the beginning,” she says. “And when Shasta found out about it, she asked to join and knowing her musical background, I asked her to lead us!”
Martinuk says that while there are many groups led by professional musicians, there are many groups that are not.
“It’s not about sounding perfect, it’s not a performance,” says Martinuk. “We find that it is the intention, the aim of providing love and connection, that makes an impact.”
Bosworth points to one man the Bowen Threshold Singers sang for at Evergeen House Care Home in North Vancouver as an example.
“He was agitated at the beginning, and just kept talking to himself,” she says. “And then, he started to calm down and a tear just ran down his cheek.”
Three or four members of the Threshold Singers go to Evergreen House on a monthly basis. Bosworth also says it is a mis-conception that they sing only for the dying.
“We’ve sung to many people who are recovering from surgery, or grieving the loss of a loved one,” she says. “We want to provide comfort for anyone who might be in need of it.”
In order to connect, and give more Bowen Islanders a chance to understand what they do, the Threshold Singers and members of the Crossing Over Choir (the men’s group on-island that sings with the same intention) will sing at the Caring Circle cottage on Cardena Rd. from 7:3- -8:30pm on the third Tuesday of every month. All are welcome to be sung to, or simply to stand back and listen.