Singers wanted for choir to beat Parkinson's

Could singing be the best medicine in the fight against Parkinson's disease?

The Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre is going to put this question to the test as part of its Sing to Beat Parkinson's program.

The Australian-first study encourages program participants diagnosed with Parkinson's to sing on a weekly basis as part of a group.

Irene Bartlett from Griffith University said they would study each of the participants' lives closely to see what benefits came from singing.

"We're wanting to get empirical evidence that singing is helpful and useful for quality of life," Dr Bartlett said.

The concept was originally developed in Britain by the Canterbury Cantata Trust.

Research fellow Yoon Irons, who is also a music therapist, told ABC Radio Brisbane's Craig Zonca the singing groups in the UK were growing every year.

"I'm a singer and I believe in singing as it can be a medicine and it can change lives," Dr Irons said.

Two choirs, one aim

The program needs participants in Brisbane to form two choirs; one that will meet at North Lakes, north of Brisbane, and the other at the Conservatorium at South Bank.

Twenty members are needed for each choir and they will be expected to sing for one hour per week for six months.

Researchers will measure and investigate any changes that take place in the participants over that time.

"We need people with Parkinson's and their carers as we feel we need to bring joy to the whole community," Dr Bartlett said.

"There will be movement and we'll also do breath connection exercises, as many patients suffer from weaker voice production."

Participants will also be able to supply their own songs for the choir to learn.

"We'll make sure that they are singing songs that they enjoy, as we want to build that sense of community, as people can become isolated with Parkinson's," Dr Bartlett said.

"The novelty is that participants can choose the songs they want to sing and can share memories that they have with that song."

Interested participants should contact the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre on (07) 3735 6335.