We are proud to share national recognition for Love Never Forgets, new choral music by Louisa Castner and Victor Zupanc, commissioned through an ACF community residency program in Minnesota. This 18-month project with Giving Voice and MacPhail Center for Music set out to boldly defy conventional wisdom that people with Alzheimer’s can’t learn new things, and the outcomes have been remarkable. Founded in 2014 as a Minneapolis chorus for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, Giving Voice has evolved into a global resource for communities launching similar choirs, and it has triggered a movement that celebrates the potential of people with Alzheimer’s.

Shortly after being chosen from among dozens of national applicants, Victor and Louisa began a series of regular visits to Giving Voice rehearsals in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Although they hadn’t known each other before, the two became a well-matched songwriting team for the project. Each has lost a parent to Alzheimer’s, and they were compelled by this opportunity to collect stories from the choir and give them back as songs. Over the summer and autumn of 2017, Victor and Louisa organized a series of residency activities: group conversations over coffee and cookies that centered on topics like courage, strength, journey, humor, community, and friendship. (Read more about the residency in this May interview.) One singer shared, “They presented a safe space for each of us. Things came out in those groups that many of us might not have said anywhere else.” Victor and Louisa created a dozen songs from those conversations, nine of which were beautifully premiered in June for a sold-out audience of 1000 people, the largest Giving Voice concert held to date. After the premiere another singer remarked, “Victor and Louisa gave us our lives back. They were our stories, expressing what we were living.”

The project was covered by local newspapers, radio stations, and Twin Cities Public Television. A crew from CBS News, led by Dr. Jon LaPook, spent two days with the choir, thoughtfully filming interviews, rehearsals, and the concert at The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. CBS aired the story last month, and you can see it online here.

In coming months Giving Voice Chorus will learn and perform the remaining songs created during the project, and Victor and Louisa are working to publish all of the music. They are already receiving inquiries from community choirs across the country. Looking back on the residency, Victor Zupanc says, “I did not imagine that this project would turn out to be as life-altering as it did. The vast majority of my commissions involve composing music for an ensemble, hearing a couple rehearsals, and then hearing the performance. This residency was a year of getting to know a community, hearing about their struggles, their losses, grief, victories, joy, sadness.”

ACF is grateful to HealthPartners Center for Memory and Aging and Bill & Susan Sands for support of this program. Concert production of Love Never Forgets was made possible with the support of the Ordway/Knight Foundation Cultural Opportunity Fund and Giving Voice individual donors.