Singing for wellbeing

Local singing group finds perfect harmony for people with Parkinson’s Disease

One of the lesser-known symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease is the impact it has on the voice, – but for one community group, singing together has lifted their voices and their spirits.

Officially established in 2017 by the Toowoomba Parkinson’s Support Group in collaboration with the University of Southern Queensland, Park ‘n’ Songs was created for people with the disease as well as their supporters to strengthen vocal production and promote the social benefits of group singing.

University of Southern Queensland Associate Professor Melissa Forbes, who has played an instrumental role in supporting the group, said it was all about creating a safe space for expression.

“There is a really great range of psychological and physical health benefits to group singing,” Associate Professor Forbes said.

“Singing regularly exercises the muscles required for general voice production – so while it is a beneficial activity for everyone, it’s especially valuable for people with Parkinson’s because it improves an area that the disease impairs,” she said.

“Harmonising together also helps caregivers of people with the disease to better cope with their caring duties – another pivotal aspect that drives our work.”

Singing the group’s praises, Park ‘n’ Songs Founding Member Carol Chalmers said the group was more than just a choir and commended the University in providing musical accompaniment.

“We are not a ‘choir’; we are a therapeutic group who sing,” Mrs Chalmers said.

“We meet to help people improve their quality of life and try to keep their speaking voice as strong as possible for as long as possible.

“It’s all about trying to project their voice and get the best out of it – all while having the opportunity to meet other people sharing the same experience.

“This year marks the fifth year since the inception of the Park ‘n’ Songs choir and to see how far we’ve come is incredible.

“We owe both the University and Melissa a debt we can never repay for all of their inspired work with us. We are also grateful to the other wonderful community musicians who facilitate the group.”

To recognise her ongoing commitment to the Toowoomba Parkinson’s Support Group and Park ‘n’ Songs initiative, Associate Professor Forbes recently received the University of Southern Queensland’s Excellence Award for Community Engagement and Service.

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