Nov. 28, 2014

Vol. 9, Num. 3

Kalimba Magic NEWS

Discovering the Kalimba in Hospice
by Angie Holdaway

Alto and Sansula
Alto kalimba and Sansula on Angie's bed

Who would have guessed that at the age of 73, dizzy from ovarian cancer treatment and illness of over 5 years, I would be playing the sansula and kalimba? Cataracts from aging, chemotherapy, and steroids have compromised my vision making it more difficult to read music. I use a magnifying glass to help me see more clearly.

My history with making music includes playing the piano for years and playing the b-flat clarinet from late elementary through early high school. I felt honored to be chosen to play the bass clarinet in high school. I enjoyed playing the organ for worship as a teenager and again in my 30s. During chemotherapy, providing I had adequate energy, I returned to the bass clarinet to play in a church ensemble.

Confined to bed to accommodate my fatigue, I grieved the loss of purpose and meaning in my life. Then a friend sent me a link to an article in the New York Times explaining how music stimulates different parts of the brain... My mind turned to picking up the dusty alto kalimba and sansula that Mark, my son, had given me years earlier.

Now, every touch of my thumbnail to the tines of the kalimba and the sansula opens up for me a new world of melodic tunes, almost as if this novice player cannot play an incorrect note. It seems as if the tines are just ready for the player to use them in almost any order on the sansula. A new musical celebration every day is waiting to be discovered.

Thank you, Mark, for introducing me to these instruments long ago.

Angie Holdaway


[Note from Mark: There are hundreds of thousands of people who were skilled musicians earlier in their lives, but now due to the aging process are unable to play the instrument of their choice: violin, piano, bass clarinet, harp, and many other instruments all require a fair bit of physical fortitude to play. But the kalimba is a tiny instrument that fits nicely in your hands and has minimal physical requirements.

Hospice musicians provide beautiful music for people in their final weeks and days of life. The music can help a dying person relax. Music can help steady a person's breathing, relieve anxiety, or give a person something beautiful and special, even something spiritual and magical in this difficult stage of their life in which most of the things they used to do are no longer accessible to them. I would like to be part of a program that supplied hospice patients with their own kalimbas, so that they can create their own musical experience.]

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