Taller de Musicoterapia / Music Therapy

“I come because it relaxes me, I completely relax,” says one regular participant, opening her arms to illustrate. “For me, it’s something new,” says another. “I like that. I like to keep trying new things.”

We’re having this discussion in Spanish, because it is Wednesday — Spanish Program day at the South Granville Senior Centre. It is also the Wednesday each month when, right after the delicious hot lunch, members can take part in the regular Music Therapy Workshop.

The word “therapy” makes the gathering sound clinical, but in fact it is warm and very human. “Music is the most social of the arts,” says the write-up in the Centre’s newsletter. “It touches our feelings, our emotions, it connects us with each other…”

Some 16 people have gathered on this warm summer day, reflecting the diverse hispanic presence in our city — from Mexico, Colombia, other Latin American countries, and Spain itself. The facilitator is Perla Barabak: an accredited psychotherapist in her native Mexico with further training in Music Therapy and some 30 years experience in the field.

“I work largely with seniors’ groups,” she says, “but this is my only Spanish-speaking group.” Her eyes sparkle with delight. As they should: this program was her idea. “I heard good things about this Centre from a friend who used to work here. I met with Clemencia Gómez, the Centre’s executive director, who liked the idea, and we began last fall.”

Each Workshop is built around a PowerPoint presentation that, with words, images and song, leads the group through an hour of discussion, movement and friendship. This particular session opens with joined hands and the song, “Cuando un amigo se va” (When a friend departs), to honour a regular participant who recently passed away.

The hour’s images and music selections evoke a wide range of reactions. Is that selection of classical music sad, or sublime? Is that couple embracing in farewell, or in reunion? Is that image a crescent moon, or a startled eye? Every opinion is valid, listened to with interest, encouraged. “Todo está bien,” says Perla. “It’s all good.”

The hour is punctuated with a couple of breathing exercises and then, right at the end… we dance! Well, we have to. We have just watched a video that shows an old gentleman in a plaza full of people dancing. He suddenly throws his two canes to the ground, and begins to dance. We all burst out laughing, jump to our own feet, and shimmy around the room.

Todo está bien!

— Penny Williams, member, volunteer and Board member of the South Granville Seniors Centre