September 23, 2004
Through the power of music, the Tremble Clefs soothes the souls of its singers dealing with Parkinson’s disease.
The degenerating condition weakens the voice, and some people speak just above a whisper. But when their voices meld together into a transfixing tune, any shaking and struggling quietly stand aside.
For the moment, their harmony conquers all.
With about 40 members from all over the Valley, the Tremble Clefs offers an outlet for Parkinson’s patients, their spouses and caregivers to socialize while strengthening voices.
The group practices every Tuesday at the Scottsdale Civic Center Senior Center, and the singers form a fellowship. Updates on the health of friends — and amusing wisecracks — fill in the gaps at rehearsals.
Although the Tremble Clefs performs for various community groups during the year, the group’s purpose runs much deeper.
"Performing is not the focus,’’ said director Kellie Walker, a Tempe resident and music therapist. "The main focus is the group itself and the support."
Many members have been involved since the group’s founding more than a decade ago by a speech therapist.
Vince Blenkle, a founding member, said the chorus provides a place to "feel absolutely free" and shed any embarrassments from the disease’s effects.
It’s a place they can be themselves.
"That’s why it’s so important to sing — to get that voice control back," said Blenkle, a Scottsdale resident. "This is our family. That’s why we like to come here. It keeps us talking, singing and active."
Don and Annis Dotts of Tempe found an activity they can do together that’s therapeutic for Annis, a former music teacher who has Parkinson’s.
Before one song, Don smoothly slips to the front seats to turn the page for his wife, before casually returning to his own chair in the back row.
Margaret Hacker is a caregiver for her husband, Glen. They both sing in the group, and she organizes refreshments at rehearsals.
"There is no judging. They take each other at true face value," said Hacker, a Mesa resident. "It’s a vital thing. Therapy of any kind for a Parkinson’s patient is good."
Singing with the Tremble Clefs
Anyone interested is invited to an open house 4:15 to 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Scottsdale Civic Center Senior Center, 7375 E. Second St. Information: Call (480) 991-2994 or (480) 596-8815.