Editorial: Monday mix on hospital’s healing music; park in Florence; return of peaches

  • From left, Mary Hernandez, Sandra Jodie and Patricia Kopitzky play their ukuleles in the volunteer room of Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton on Aug. 21. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The sounds of music are a joyful addition to the medical gear in patient rooms at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

A ukulele band is the latest addition to the “Sacred Music for Healing” program started nearly a year ago with the help of Joe Blumenthal, a musician and owner of Downtown Sounds on Pleasant Street. The first musicians who volunteered are a 30-member a cappella group, Journey Home Singers. They sing for patients in the hospital’s hospice and home nursing care program.

The ukulele players, led by Blumenthal, began visiting the hospital three months ago. He says the goal is to bring joy through music to people who are suffering. “We are here to provide a little sunshine in an otherwise cloudy day.”

The six ukulele players drawn from Blumenthal’s troupe, AEIOUkes, were doing just that on a recent Monday evening as they visited 11 rooms. Among the patients soothed by their sounds was Daniella Brahms, 39, of Easthampton, who sat back in her hospital bed, an IV in her right arm and her eyes tightly closed as she listened to “Take Me Home Country Road.” When the ukuleles stopped, Brahms opened her tear-filled eyes and said, “Perfect song, thank you … it’s exactly what I needed.”

The musicians, all amateurs and many retired, also are moved by their visits. “We are making people forget about their pain for a short time and bring them to a better place. It’s been really wonderful to see, to watch the faces of the patients and see how they experience the music,” says retired teacher Sandy Jodrie, 68, of Northampton.

“I was thrilled because I always wanted to be a music therapist. I thought it would fulfill a desire that I had to play music in a helping way,” adds Jodrie. “I just felt like I wanted to give back to the hospital and the people who were in the hospital. I thought it would be a moving experience, and it has been.”

Hospital staff say the musicians are well received by patients and their relatives, who often have a strong emotional reaction to the music. Carole Bull, the pastoral care coordinator at the hospital who helped launch the program, says, “We’ve had visiting family members express sheer delight.”

That’s a wonderful example of the healing power of music.

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Kudos to the mercantile division of the Florence Civic and Business Association for leading the revival of Trinity Row Park, which is tucked between Route 9, South Main Street and Trinity Row on the eastern edge of Florence. The group took over the project in 2015 from former city councilor Gene Tacy, who had begun raising money to rebuild the park’s fountain.

The mercantile division raised nearly $42,000 to pay for the work needed to knock down the original fountain and replace it with a new one. Many of the original stones were reused.

A flagpole was erected, and last week Northampton Department of Public Works employees were spreading crushed brick as a foundation for the pavers that will surround the fountain. Three park benches also will be installed.

“It’s the entrance to Florence. We want it to be welcoming,” says David Alvord, chairman of the mercantile division. “It’s also a public park that wasn’t getting used because it wasn’t that attractive.

“What we love about the Civic and Business Association is that these funds are all Florence-oriented, from small donations to big donations.”

That’s part of the charm of Florence, a gem of a village that now offers an inviting spot for a refreshing stop.

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Farmers and fruit-lovers alike are rejoicing at this season’s plentiful supply of ripe, juicy local peaches that were scarce last year. An extreme fluctuation in temperatures in February 2016 killed peach buds throughout the Northeast, wiping out much of that crop.

The weather in 2017 was much better for the stone fruit. “We’re very happy to have an excellent crop so far this year, especially after last year when we had no peaches and a very light apple crop,” says Ben Clark, co-owner of Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield. “Our customers are very happy to have the fresh peaches that everybody missed out on last year.”

We are fortunate to live in a fertile Valley that sustains so many farmers who deserve the continued support of local fruit and vegetable lovers as summer crops turn to the fall harvest.