Rosemary Aubin speaks in a whisper, so she sings as loudly as she can.
The 70-year-old Scottsdale woman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1986.
The progressive disorder of the central nervous system — commonly associated with tremors — also slowly robs sufferers of their voices. Singing strengthens the voice. So Aubin and 44 fellow Parkinson’s sufferers sing as the Tremble Clefs.
The choral group, based out of the Scottsdale Civic Center Senior Center, will perform Saturday during the annual meeting of the Arizona Chapter of the National Parkinson’s Foundation.
The group was formed eight years ago, when Parkinson’s patient Vince Blenkle, 71, of Scottsdale and four other sufferers sat around a piano and sang.
Karen Hesley, a speech therapist at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, formed the group to help the five strengthen their vocal chords, Blenkle said. John Erbach, 78, of Scottsdale was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago. He credits singing for his ability to continue to speak clearly. He said he also believes singing doesn’t just strengthen his voice, it strengthens his spirit.
"Anything you have, music will cure it," he said. Aubin agreed. "You can’t help but feel better when you are with others who understand and singing songs," she said. Dick Riley, 70, of Phoenix said singing as a group helps him relax and forget he has the illness. Choral director and music therapist Kellie Walker of Tempe said that’s one of the group’s main purposes.
"It’s a normalizing activity," she said. "It helps them to feel alive with the joy of living."
As the group rehearsed Tuesday evening, their voices were strong and so were their smiles.
Who: Arizona Chapter of the National Parkinson’s Foundation.
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 1500 W. Maryland Ave., Phoenix.
Cost: Admission is free.