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December 10, 2008

Tremble Clefs sings through Parkison's disease

Valley Tribune (AZ):

It's the season for choirs around the country to bring holiday cheer, with tunes like "Deck the Halls" and "Silver Bells" ringing out. But one Valley group brings that same spirit, only there is a different twist. Known as the Tremble Clefs, this choral group is made up of singers living and singing with Parkinson's disease. The group provides therapeutic singing for those with the disease, with the belief that a healthy voice generates good breathing and good posture.

Vince Blenkle, an original Tremble Clef, said that while once Parkinson's disease attacked his vocal chords and limited his speech, he now has regained it. Blenkle had practically lost his voice, he said, but now he said he is able to reach volume that he never had before. "The whole group feels like a family," he said. Blenkle has been with the Tremble Clefs since the choir was founded in 1994 by speech therapist Karen Hensley.

Members of Tremble Clefs meet each Tuesday at the Scottsdale Senior Center to sing, stretch and move to music, and in doing so they say they are strengthening their voices and their bodies. The Tremble Clefs hope to keep members active and engaged, sharing an enjoyable activity, resulting in a new-found energy and a sense of accomplishment, they said. Also, members participate with spouses or caregivers.

Blenkle was diagnosed with Parkinson's on Jan. 30, 1991, and has lived with the disease for 17 years. "The voice gets quieter and quieter," said Blenkle.

While it's agreed that the exercises benefits may be numerous, some say that sometimes it may be too much. Blenkle said that his wife, Faith Blenkle, is dealing with the resurgence of his voice. "She says I exercise too much of one part of my body," he said. "My mouth." Faith Blenkle said the Tremble Clef are more clan than choir. "It's a family," she said. "We love everybody."

Delores Wheelock, originally from Milwaukee, said she still participates while her husband who had Parkinson's passed away years ago. She says that Tremble Clefs meetings are tough to miss. "If we don't meet we have Tremble Clef withdrawals," she said.

Rosemary Aubin, 75, has been with the choir for 12 years. She has had Parkinson's for 23 years. "I like the camaraderie," she said. Her caregiver, Rhoda Thomas, said that participating in groups like the choir has helped Aubin retain her vitality. "I'm a healthy 65 and there are a lot of times I can't keep up with her," Thomas said.

Thomas has been Aubin's caregiver for about six months. Don Dodds' wife was diagnosed with Parkinson's 13 years ago. He said the Tremble Clefs have been extraordinarily beneficial to his wife. "The darn disease progresses no matter what you do," said Dodds. "I think the progression would be a lot more advanced if she didn't participate in the group."

Dodds said that the group provides a respite from the struggles of the disease. "When you have Parkinson's it can be kind of a discouraging thing," Dodds said. "But it's a very positive support group ... It lifts her spirits."

Posted by acapnews at December 10, 2008 10:40 PM

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