A Work About Alzheimer’s

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The Mastersingers perform Alzheimer’s Stories by Robert Cohen

Dates:

The Basilica of the Little Flower on Sun., May 8 at 7:00 PM

Carnegie Hall in New York on May 30, 2016

 

Dr. John Silantien, Conductor
Jeremiah Drake & Lisa Owens, Soloists

 

This touching work is in three movements, the arc of which loosely mimics the progression of the disease:The Numbers – an objective description of the discovery of the disease by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1901 including the number of individuals currently afflicted, future projections and dramatized conversations between Dr. Alzheimer and his first patient, Auguste Deter. The movement ends with an extended setting of a quote from his patient Ich hab mich verloren, I have lost myself.

The Stories – a pastiche of a number of selected stories taken from the choirs blog. With a mixture of pathos, poignancy and humor, we meet a number of individuals afflicted with the disease, portrayed by the two soloists, as well as the recollections of family members. Two notables: a woman who still thinks shes on a boat to Panama with her father; and a WWII Navy veteran who repeats the same bawdy story of the war so many times that the chorus can recite it by heart.

For the Caregivers – The most difficult part of writing a work about such a terrible and ultimately hopeless disease was how to end the work with some semblance of hope. The clue came in a recollection by one of the chorus members about a visit to a nursing home where a patient asked them to sing. When asked what, the patient replied: Sing anything. First referenced in the second movement, this idea became the centerpiece and focus of the last movement. The core of the brilliantly realized libretto is as follows:

“Find those you love in the dark and light. Help them through the days and nights.
Keep faith. They sense what they cannot show. Love and music are the last things to go. Sing anything.”