Connecting the Dots: The roots of Eventide

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    Carolyn Jones on her couch being serenaded by members of the hospice choir she founded. CONTRIBUTED/JOHN BOS

Published: 3/17/2023 3:26:30 PM

“Let music charm me last on earth, and greet me first in heaven.”

One book I am reading right now is “Staring at the Sun” by Irvin D Yalom. He affirms that self-awareness is a supreme gift, a “treasure as precious as life. This is what makes us human,” Yalom says. “But it comes with a costly price: the wound of mortality. Our existence is forever shadowed by the knowledge that we will grow, blossom, and inevitably, diminish and die.”

I’ve just returned home from a week at MGH Cooley Dickinson Hospital on the edge … Living through a time of not knowing while receiving five blood transfusions and a lot of medical interventions. I became intimately aware of my body’s growing familiarity with what I had always known intellectually — that one day I would die.

It turned out that I would have a week in which to ride in my own existential rodeo after arriving at the emergency ward. When and how I might complete my diminishment and die was the theme. It included memories of a memorial service I led for a woman halfway up a mountain on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. A woman instrumental in my life and, as it turns out, for Franklin County. Her name is Carolyn Jones. There are hundreds of hospice choirs throughout America, but only one in Franklin County. Eventide singers would not exist had it not been for Carolyn Jones … and the way she died.

On Sunday, March 26, Eventide will present its 17th annual public concert at 3 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield. Eventide only sings for the general public once a year. The remaining 364 days each year are devoted to singing for tiny audiences. Tiny, like 3 or 4 family members gathered around the bed of a loved one soon to leave this time and space. That’s what a hospice choir does.

My deep personal connection to Eventide is rooted in my relationship with Carolyn Jones. I met her in 2006 at a week-long Village Harmony singing workshop at BekkiTippen’s iconic Round House in rural Colrain. Carolyn convinced me to participate in a three-week Village Harmony workshop later that year in a converted monastery on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a profound experience and we became fast friends. I marveled at Carolyn’s energy and spirit, later learning that she was in remission from bone cancer.

I also found out that Carolyn had started a hospice choir in Marshfield, Vermont where she lived. It was named “Carolyn’s Angels.” In February 2007, I received a call from one of her choir members inviting me at Carolyn’s behest to come up to Marshfield for a pot luck supper and “sing.” The sing was for Carolyn. She was no longer in remission. The prognosis was not good.

I have a photograph of Carolyn lying on her couch surrounded by her singers. I cannot begin to describe how that fusion of sight, song and love enveloped all of us in that living room. All I could think of on my drive back home down I-91 was that we had to have a hospice choir in Franklin County.

Long story short, a close friend, retired Episcopal priest Mary Schreiber, and I formed Eventide in 2007. After numerous organizing meetings, the newly formed Hospice Choir of Franklin County had its first rehearsal in the First Congregational Church in Greenfield on October 28, 2007. We were dependent upon several local choral leaders while looking for the person who could shape our choir into a respectable choral ensemble.

At a reception following the memorial service for Jackie Waker, a co-founder of Cancer Connection in Northampton, I met choral conductor Joe Toritto. He agreed to lead our nascent group of singers for several months until we had attained some semblance of musicality. Joe extended those “several months” to the next 16½ years. He is the primary reason that Eventide has become a finely tuned choral missionary.

I have always thought that the first two lines — “Let music charm me last on earth, and greet me first in heaven” — from the song “O Sing to Me of Heaven,” capture perfectly the mission and purpose of Eventide.

Eventide’s mission is to provide a bed of music, a harmonic raft on which a person may float to the further shore in her or his transition from this time to what is next to come. Eventide does this by singing in small ensembles at the bedsides of the critically and terminally ill.

The name “Eventide” came to John while on a treadmill at the Y. He sang with Eventide until his voice “went south” at which time he turned his attention from singing to writing. That’s why you can read “Connecting the Dots” every other Saturday in the Recorder. As always, questions and comments are invited at


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