I read with great interest the article “The music and memory connection.” In the 1980s I used to present Yiddish recordings at the Daughters of Israel. My wonderful mother, the late Evelyn Bernhaut Perlmutter, always accompanied me on those occasions. I clearly remember how residents were wheeled in to the auditorium — many of them seemingly asleep. However, once the music was heard, feet started tapping, hands clapping, and many sang along with the music.
I clearly remember a particular incident that has remained with me all my life. An elderly woman was in a wheelchair near me. She had been sleeping. She caught my attention; I watched her, when at first her lips were moving, silently. And then she began to sing aloud with every selection with a smile on her face. At the end of my presentation she motioned to me to come to her. She whispered to me, “You’ve awakened me from a dream.” Her words brought tears to my eyes, even as they do now as I recall that touching moment.
There certainly is no question of the positive effect music has on awakening memories of the past. The Daughters of Israel are to be congratulated for their being at the forefront of utilizing music as a therapeutic treatment.
New York, NY
(Editor’s note: Charlie Bernhaut has been sharing his collection of Jewish music since 1977 when he joined “The Jewish and Hebrew Sound” on WFMU. He currently hosts a weekly two-hour program “Jewish Soul Music” on his website, www.charliebernhaut.com. All shows are indexed and archived and can be accessed at any time.)