There is no doubt about it, music is magical:
If it’s Tuesday evening, it must be Music at DANI’s.
A Hand-up. Not a Hand-Out.
I love this clever tagline. In just seven little words a beautiful concept of community support is clear to us all. It’s all about empowering. Sometimes, a small kind deed goes a very long way.
For years (actually decades), I have been facilitating programs with older adults with a variety of challenges, including complex care needs using music, creative movement and dance as primary expressive modalities. Several years ago, I thought I would lend my love for music and dance to the young adults with assorted neuro-developmental disorders including Autism Spectrum and Down Syndrome with varied physical / cognitive special needs at DANI’s www.dani-toronto.com ‒ Tuesday evening music and dinner club. No surprise, it has been a wonderful weekly experience. Like most meaningful initiatives, the reward we reap exceeds the effort required. Recall the inspiring wisdom of Mohammad Ali: “The more we help others, the more we help ourselves”. Absolutely.
The afternoon rush-hour traffic up the Allen Expressway is certainly no fun, but it always seems worthwhile when I arrive at Dani’s, as I am greeted with familiar smiling faces. Best of all, I am warmly welcomed with friendly hugs. The worries of my day have melted away.
I am a firm believer that within each of us is a singer and a dancer. Of course not all of us were destined to become famous divas, prima ballerinas or legendary rock stars. The love of music and dance is almost universal, as well as playful, inclusive, often interactive and at times transformative. Not to mention fun and healing and therapeutic in so many ways. Often, I have seen music effectively reach withdrawn, lethargic, distressed, depressed, nonverbal or somehow disabled adults. On more than a few occasions I have experienced the well-known saying by Hans Christian Andersen: “Where words fail, music speaks”. Perhaps we are all unique characters in an enchanted musical fairy-tale. There’s no doubt about it, music is magical.
We are all in the mood for music. The staff and volunteers are always ready to enjoy a nostalgic musical interlude: “We’re all in the mood for a melody /And you’ve got us feeling alright” – lyrics from the “Piano Man” by singer-songwriter icon Billy Joel, as played on the electric keyboard by the musical Rabbi. A delightful musical trip down memory-lane. Music is filled with meaningful memories.
It really doesn’t matter if we can carry a tune or coordinate our limbs; it’s all about the pure joy of song and dance. It really doesn’t matter if we know the lyrics because we can often hum along or simply swing and sway. Music is lodged deeply in our brains just waiting to be sparked. The incredible human brain is hard-wired for musical stimulation. Some talented folks can whistle a happy tune. The rhythm enters our body and the melody touches our soul. We can each enjoy music in our own unique way: clapping, toe-tapping, rocking, swirling and twirling, perhaps hopping, bouncing or embracing, and certainly our eyes twinkle with delight. The intense power of music can touch us deeply and possibly evoke tears or laughter. Sometimes, we just sit back, relax and allow the gentle mood or the calm feeling expressed by the soothing music to wash over us. The beauty of a tender lullaby.
We happily sing along to the catchy tunes and our glee is contagious. Together we sing our weekly favourites and sometimes we learn a new song, a chorus or a nigun (folk melody). But most of all, we let the splendor of music enter our minds, stir our memories, energize our bodies, ignite our imaginations and reach into our souls. There is no doubt about it, music is magical.
The traditional songs of the Jewish holidays are delightful and allow for meaningful dialogue. Every week is a new musical journey with a renewed cause for celebration. We love the popular songs we recall from week to week and from year to year. Sing-along party favourites are always crowd pleasers: “If you’re Happy and you know it”, “I know and Old Lady” and “The Chicken Dance”. We all enjoy the lively music played on the keyboard; and for this revered weekly time together we are carefree, singing and dancing and smiling. Simply magical.
Once in a while we are delighted with a virtuoso cello solo performance by the talented musician/rabbi. We are fascinated by the magnificent instrument, and mesmerized by the exceptionally serene sound it produces. Indeed, we are serenaded; possibly a soft lullaby or a nostalgic Broadway show-tune or a Billboard-hit sentimental love song. Can you name that tune? “My Heart will go on” (Titanic) or “Memory” (Cats) or perhaps “I Dreamed a Dream” (Les Mis) …
Before we say good-bye we sing one more joyful song together: “All you need is Love” – classic Beatles; and we smile as the familiar melody and the lyrics resonate throughout the room. “Love is all you need…”
I look forward to next Tuesday evening with my wonderful DANI Family…familiar tunes played on the keyboard or perhaps memorable melodies performed on the classical cello, and all of us singing and dancing together‒yet each in our own special way. There is no doubt about it, music is magical.
Stevie Wonder said it best: “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand”. Certainly, we all agree; music makes the world a better place.