When asked how the Threshold Choir came about, Kate Munger first recalled a happy childhood, where her loving mother would often sing lullabies to her and her four siblings each night at bedtime, and to campfire songs with her fellow Girl Scouts as an eight year-old. But as its name reveals, the Threshold Choir is about more than happy times. And Kate remembers facing down her own fears by singing for the first time at the bedside of a dear friend who was dying of AIDS. That was in 1990.
In March of 2000, Kate gathered fifteen friends at a home in El Cerrito, California---fifteen women who believed that for too long our society had distanced itself from the reality of suffering and death, and that compassion should have a voice.
And the first Threshold Choir was born.
Within a year Kate had founded chapters, always made up of volunteers, in Marin, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma Counties. And today there is a network of over 125 a cappella Threshold Choirs---connected typically though the internet and consisting mostly of women’s voices---comforting those at the threshold of time and eternity in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Cambodia. Their mission is simple, and profound.
“…To sing for and with those at the thresholds of life.”
The word ‘threshold’ is associated with crossing over or passing through, but Kate also chose the word because the threshold is the place through which one passes from outside to inside---to join with others.
Threshold Choirs sing to those in a coma, and those who are dying. But they also sing to newborns and children in hospitals, and women who are incarcerated. Whether it be the beautiful voices, the songs, or the gift of presence, the fruit of this work is peace and love.
The Threshold Choir’s repertoire consists of some 400 songs, and includes everything from spirituals and hymns to lullabies and soft pop songs that are fifty, sixty and seventy years-old. They can even work in an occasional Beatles ballad or a less raucous version of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” if there’s an interest. Kate reports that family members and friends will often join in.
“We like to think of our work as kindness made audible.”
Making kindness audible---“So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
Kate Munger is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.