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Vocal group serenading Vancouver Island hospital workers on a weekly basis

Life Journey Singers have been performing outside Nanaimo hospital since last fall
The Life Journey Singers – John Bullas, Carolyn Franklin, Jennie Jones, Sharon Horncastle, Dorothy Mandy and Brian Short (from left) – have been serenading workers at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital since last fall. (Photo courtesy Jim Horncastle)

Now that weather is becoming more agreeable, a local vocal group is making its return to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital to serenade workers.

The Life Journey Singers have been giving weekly performances outside NRGH since the fall, gathering at 7 a.m., 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. to catch workers as they change shifts. Those concerts are now resuming after being disrupted earlier this month due to heavy snowfall.

“We have very few opportunities to sing at the moment so we’re also quite happy to get together and sing for our own pleasure … and at the same time we bring some encouragement and thanks to the hard-working people at the hospital,” founding member Dorothy Mandy said.

The Life Journey Singers were formed around 10 years ago with the primary focus of singing at bedsides for the ill and dying “or anyone who would benefit from a comforting presence in times of transition, convalescence or trauma,” said Mandy. The group had been performing at Kiwanis Lodge until COVID-19 restrictions forced them out.

Mandy said the group decided to start singing at NRGH in response to the anti-vaccine protest that happened there in September.

“We were dismayed by the protest that was happening up there at the hospital where the people were abusive to the health-care staff and calling them names and shouting and being terribly rude,” Mandy said. “It was so upsetting because those health-care workers are working so hard for the rest of us and to have that happening was just a real shock so we decided that we would try to counteract that.”

Through their masks, the ensemble performs what Mandy describes as short, repetitive chants of “comfort and love and support.” Many of the pieces were written by Gabriola Island musicians Leah Hokanson, including one called I’m Listening to the Sound of the Ocean.

“It’s quite brief and it just kind of sways in imitation of the ocean waves and the harmony weaves in and out…” Mandy said. “They’re not religious songs but you could call them spiritual.”

Mandy said the singers’ audience of incoming and outgoing hospital staff and patients has been very appreciative and has responded by waving, blowing kisses and saying “thank you.”

“Sometimes we see windows being opened and even doors so that people inside can hear us. It’s a good feeling and people walking by sometimes stop and listen for a while and tell us how much they appreciate it. It’s well worth doing,” Mandy said. “We really enjoy it.”

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