Local singing group working to erase stigma surrounding dementia with unique concert

Local News

The Cantata Singers, a community-based choral organization dedicated to providing local residents with the opportunity to perform and/or listen to classical choral works, is hosting a concert on Sunday, June 9 with a special meaning — to raise awareness of and erase the stigma surrounding dementia. 

“There’s not enough awareness of dementia in the community,” said Wickham. “Folks who are living with it, folks who are caregivers, know all about it and they know all too well, but the rest of the community, we all kind of put our blinders on and pretend it’s not there.”

Wickham says that music is often an important tool that people living with dementia can use to connect with their past.

“We built the concert around a piece called ‘Alzheimer’s Stories,’ which was actually commissioned just a little ways down the Susquehanna River and performed by the Susquehanna Valley Chorale,” said Will Wickham, Director of the Cantata Singers. “We heard about the music and thought, ‘this is a great thing to do’ and why not use it for a chance to sort of educate at least our audience a little bit about various dementias.”

Reverend Dr. Cynthia Huling Hummel, who lives with a slow-moving form of Alzheimer’s and is an international advocate for those living with dementia, as well as an author and artist, will have her artwork on display at the concert. She has created a series of masks depicting the emotions people with dementia feel but cannot express, some of which were selected to appear at an exhibition in Stockholm at the National Gallery of Art.

Dr. Huling Hummel also hopes the event will allow residents who have Alzheimer’s and related diseases to learn about the resources available to them in our local community, such as “Art Reflects,” the program through which she created her series of masks. 

“I think so many people are afraid of the word ‘Alzheimer’s,’ and look at the diagnosis as sort of an ending point, instead of the possibilities, that you can still have a happy life in spite of the diagnosis,” Dr. Huling Hummel said.

The concert will also serve as the debut for the Faithful Friends Singers, a group of people living with dementia and their care partners who will be joining the Cantata Singers on Sunday. 

It will begin at 3 p.m. at the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center in Big Flats. 

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