Two choirs join voices across state borders, raising awareness for those living with dementia

‘I Won’t Forget – Memories and Music’ concert is being held at Pablo Center May 23.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 6:33 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -Two well known choirs, one here in Eau Claire, and one out of Decorah, Iowa, are soon sharing the stage to shine a light on individuals in the community living with dementia.

One note, lyric or song has the ability to transport any finely-tuned ear back in time.

“Two hours will feel like five minutes to me,” says Larry Studt, Luther College alumna.

For Studt and his wife Rachel, choral music was their life together. “It’s the only thing...that I can do where time really has no meaning,” Larry says.”

The two attended Luther College and were part of the world-acclaimed Nordic Choir. Studt’s wife and accomplished pianist, passed away in January 2021 from a form of early-onset dementia.

Now May 23, Eau Claire will be the first stop in the 75th-anniversary tour for the Iowa-based Nordic Choir, with the concert’s featured piece created in Rachel’s memory.

“As my wife became ill and eventually passing during the pandemic, the song is written about her and her life experiences, but it can be easily applied to other situations not just her,” says Larry.

The song titled ‘I Won’t Forget’ was written by Studt and brought to life by former Blugold, Zachary Moore.

“I sent him some words I’d written just sitting doing my morning devotions and wrote on the back of some scratch paper,” Studt starts. “So he used those words and they’re very raw, they’re very emotional but his product is very good it turned out better than I could have imagined.”

Stand in the Light Memory Choir will be kicking off the concert under the musical direction of Cathy Reitz. Reitz founded the choir back in 2016, the same year she lost her sister to dementia.

“I want to show these people, look what you can still keep doing, look, there is no end to what you can do,” she says.

A message that hits close to home for Laurel Studt, a senior at Luther College and member of the Nordic Choir.

“It’s really difficult to see someone you love go through that type of thing and not be able to connect with you through communication, through memories and I think its so important to just be patient and kind and compassionate,” Laurel shares. “I remember waking up on Sunday mornings and hearing the piano playing, which was my mom of course.”

For as long as she can remember, Laurel says music has kept her family grounded.

“She was always listening to music, when she lost her ability to speak she was still able to sing, and just hum along to pieces we would play in the background,” Laurel recalls.

“I wouldn’t say its like a gift wrap end of the road, because the pathway continues, it’s not just going to end on May 23, because that’s not how life works,” says Larry. “But it certainly wraps things up in a nice, hopefully in meaningful to the community, [and] to those organizations that’s the main thing.”

The concert is a fundraiser for not only Stand in the Light Memory Choir, but Eau Claire’s Aging and Disability Resource Center.

“People with this illness are behind us the grocery store, they’re next to us at the stop light...they are where we are,” says Lisa Wells, ADRC dementia care specialist. “People can live well, they just need the resources to do that.”

The two organizations as well as the Alzheimer’s Association will have booths set up at the concert for people looking to learn more about the illness, plus resources and programs available within the area.

Larry’s daughter, Laurel will be introducing the featured piece written in memory of Rachel Studt.

Everyone is invited to attend the free concert Monday, and Pablo Center is also offering valet to concert-goers free of cost.

Pablo Center for the Confluence | Event | I Won’t Forget - Memories and Music. As of Thursday, more than 500 tickets have already been spoken for.

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