HANOVER — The Garden State Threshold Choir (GSTC) is currently open to new membership inquiries.
Distinct from traditional choral groups, GSTC doesn’t perform for entertainment or in concert settings. Instead, their focus is on singing in small groups to individuals, typically those who are in the final stages of life, transitioning between living and dying.
Their repertoire is centered around themes of rest, comfort, and release, as well as expressions of love and peace.
Judy Hahn, director of the Garden State Threshold Choir (GSTC) and resident of Whippany, highlights the commitment needed for their unique work. “It’s incredibly rewarding, though it requires a special kind of dedication,” she says.
GSTC’s approach to singing is distinctive. Their Threshold songs, penned by choir members, are softly sung a capella. They start in unison, gradually introducing harmonies, almost like a mantra. Delia Cashin, a member of GSTC, describes the transformative power of harmony: “It shifts the room’s atmosphere, evoking deep emotions. The harmonies often reveal thoughts and feelings that might have been unexpressed.”
The choir, comprising small groups of three or four, sings only by invitation, often through a hospice agency, following extensive training and practice.
“Singing to someone nearing life’s end is a profound honor for us,” Hahn explains. “We witness relaxation in breathing, and for families present, our songs often articulate their emotions, leading to shared tears.”
The choir’s presence is also calming for hospice staff. “Nurses and aides appreciate when we visit,” Cashin notes.
Prospective GSTC members don’t undergo formal auditions, but certain skills are necessary: carrying a tune, maintaining harmony, blending with others, and most crucially, conveying kindness through voice.
Rehearsals take place on Tuesday evenings, alternating between in-person sessions in Whippany and virtual meetings on Zoom, with bedside visits typically occurring on weekday afternoons.
As part of the wider Threshold Choir network, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with around 200 chapters nationally and internationally, GSTC embraces all spiritual paths without religious affiliation. It was the first New Jersey chapter, established five years ago, followed by another in Cherry Hill. GSTC volunteers never charge for their services.
In addition to in-person visits, GSTC offers virtual “bedside” visits and bi-monthly song circles over Zoom. For more information about the Garden State Threshold Choir, click here or contact Judy Hahn at (973) 222-7360
To join or request a bedside visit, email Garden_State@thresholdchoir.org.
Threshold Choir is a 501(c)3 organization.