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For Parkinson’s Patients, Tremble Clefs Offer Therapy Through Song

When it comes to Parkinson’s Disease, most people think about the near constant trembling that accompanies the disease. Another side of the illness, though, is the toll it can take on the human voice. For some patients that can mean a softer voice, for others it can mean a struggle to articulate. In many cases, experts say, the end result of these challenges is often social isolation.

In all, nearly 90 percent of Parkinson’s patients suffer from some form of speech disorder, yet less than five percent ever receive formal treatment. That’s where a Newton-based choir called the Tremble Clefs comes in.

On the surface, the Tremble Clefs is a choir, but the main mission of the group is to improve the communication skills of its members — all Parkinson’s patients — through song. To do so, the group incorporates a speech therapy program called Lee Silverman Voice Training into a wide range of holiday songs, spirituals, and show tunes.

Nancy Mazonson is director of the Parkinson’s Family Support Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service and the choir’s organizer.

“We have a very self-selecting group of sophisticated people who had very challenging jobs in the past and they approach having Parkinson’s and having a chronic disease in the same way they approached their careers,” Mazonson said. “They’re aggressive, they want to grab what’s out there, they’re open to new possibilities, and they want to work hard.”

The Tremble Clefs is a collaboration between the Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Waltham; the Mass. General Hospital’s Department of Speech, Language, and Swallowing Disorders; and the Partners Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at MGH.

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Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

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