Rest Easy—with the Whidbey Island Threshold Singers

Posted in Community, Feature, More Stories, Music

BY KATE POSS
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
January 6, 2016

During the past holiday season my mind was in a whirl. Thoughts chattered nonstop about entertaining family and guests, buying gifts and shopping for food. I needed a “Rest Easy” session by the Whidbey Island Threshold Singers.

On a Tuesday night before the Winter solstice, my husband and I drove to the Healing Circles building in Langley. After removing our shoes, we padded upstairs to a long room where five women sat in a circle of chairs while a dozen others sat or lay about on the carpet. On hearing the soothing harmony of a cappella voices, my exhausted mind unwound in gratitude and I became aware of the sense of connection and peace that was created, during these dark days, by the tender singing that surrounded us.

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“Easy, rest easy; let every trouble drift away.
Easy, rest easy; love enfolds you and holds you safe.”
— © Marilyn Power Scott, the Threshold Choir

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The first Threshold Choir was formed 16 years ago by Kate Munger in California. The seeds for “threshold singing” began a decade earlier, she said, when she sang at the bedside of a beloved friend who was dying. “I did what I always did when I was afraid; I sang the song that gave me courage,” she noted. “I sang it for two and a half hours. It comforted me, which comforted him.”

Gaea Van Breda, Effie Brown and Christa Straub sing Christmas carols for Dorothy Lepisto. (photo by Raymond Poss)

Gaea Van Breda, Effie Brown and Christa Straub sing Christmas carols for
Dorothy Lepisto.  (photo by Raymond Poss)

The Whidbey Island Threshold Singers are a branch of the Threshold Choir and sing soothing and heartfelt songs, many of which were written by the original choir’s creators. With regular visits to CareAge of Whidbey, the Whidbey Island Threshold singers also are invited to sing by caregivers or family members of those receiving Hospice care on the island.

Christa Straub is one the coordinators of the Whidbey Island Threshold Singers.

“There is something to lying down and having the music washing over you,” said Straub. “We sing in a gentle lullaby voice. It is most important to know that this is not a performance; we’re offering the comfort of voice.” Currently there are 12 singers who sing in groups of one to three at the bedside of the very ill, the bed-ridden, those who are dying or near-death.

Being asked to sing “is an utter honor,” said Straub, “at such a vulnerable, tender time in a person’s life. We understand the trust that’s been given us. We’ve been asked to sing for people who are dying and then are later invited to the memorial. That feels like a beautiful completion of a relationship.”

Straub discovered the Threshold Choir through a friend in California. “She sang with the Threshold Choir and shared a CD with me,” recalled Straub. “I loved the songs and was touched by them. Little did I know that later I would be singing with her as she was dying from cancer. Those evenings singing by her bedside are precious in my memory.”

Padma Salle Getse, friend of Dorothy Lepisto joins Jeanne Lepisto, (Dorothy’s Daughter) in singing Christmas carols. (photo by Raymond Poss)

Padma Salle Getse (left) joins Dorothy’s daughter, Jeanne, in singing Christmas carols.  (photo by Raymond Poss)

She was thrilled to meet up with women who had sung in the Anacortes Threshold Singers group. In 2009, after an inspiring Regional Threshold Choir Gathering on Vashon Island, the women, who included Linda Edling, Susan Berg, Netsah Zylinsky and Rohini, formed a branch separate from the Anacortes Threshold Singers in order to better serve the population on Whidbey Island.

Suni MacLean is the North Island contact for the Whidbey Island Threshold Singers. She joined the singers several years ago, after seeing an ad for the group on Drewslist. “I thought I’d like to go and try and it out,” MacLean said. I had been a nurse and been involved in Hospice before and found a great interest in singing. It is definitely a heartfelt thing to do. It benefits both sides: those of us who sing and those who get the benefit of singing.”

New members continue to join the group. Twice monthly afternoon practices are often hosted by Effie Brown in her home in Freeland. Evening practices are in Coupeville and Freeland.

During one practice, Straub and singer Anne Zontine turned to me and sang: “You are Loved,” also written by Marilyn Scott.

“You are loved, deeply loved.
You are a well-cherished garden.
You are loved, deeply loved.
You are a treasured child.
All your life, all your days, from the very first moment of being.
You’ve been loved, greatly loved. You are loved.

Drink it in, drink it in.
Love is the life-giving water.
Take it in, take it in.
Know it in every cell.
Soak it into your toes, so the rose that you are fully blossoms.
You’ve been loved, greatly loved. You are loved…”

— © Marilyn Power Scott, the Threshold Choir

It is remarkable to receive the kindness and warmth that is sung in these words. It creates a feeling of warmth in the heart.

Christa Straub (left) and Effie Brown sing with feeling. (photo by Raymond Poss)

Christa Straub (left) and Effie Brown, captured in mid-song, are long-time members of the Threshold Singers.  (photo by Raymond Poss)

Gaea Van Breda has sung with the Whidbey Island Threshold Singers almost from the start. She often provides the deeper-voiced harmony that provides depth to the songs. “I find it nourishing to sing and blend our voices,” said Van Breda. “It’s a huge gift, knowing we’re bringing comfort to the families. It’s all about service.”

On Christmas Eve, I joined the Whidbey Island Threshold Singers, who share their voices each Thursday for Dorothy Lepisto in Langley. At one point, Lepisto, who is 95, was in Hospice care and believed she wouldn’t live much longer. But she did live and found so much happiness from the singing that they continue to visit her each week. Lepisto sings along from printed words to the songs. On Christmas Eve, Straub, Van Breda and Effie Brown joined in singing Christmas carols and creating a sense of true good cheer.

Soothing Threshold Choir songs are available on this CD (photo by the Threshold Choir)

Soothing Threshold Choir songs are available on this CD (photo by the Threshold Choir)

 

If you or someone you know would like to receive the gift of the Threshold Singers’ song, they can be reached by calling Christa Straub at 360-331-7633 or Suni MacLean at (360-632-9071). If you are interested in joining their group, call Straub or MacLean also.

All lyrics included in this article are written and copyrighted by Marilyn Power Scott of the Threshold Choir. Visit http://thresholdchoir.org/ for more information.

Image at top: Dorothy Lepisto beams at her friendly Threshold singers.   (photo by Raymond Poss)

Kate Poss works as a library assistant at the Langley Library. She was thrilled to work for three summers as a chef aboard a small Alaskan tour boat from 2008 to 2010. She was a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles for many years before moving to Whidbey Island where she likes ‘talking story,’ hiking, hosting salons and writing her novel.

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