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NYer Of The Week: Sue Ribaudo Takes Comfort In Leading Choir's Soothing Sounds

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They say laughter is the best medicine, but this week's New Yorker may have found something better through song. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report, which was shot, written and edited by Rachel Smith.

For seven years, Sue Ribaudo has led a group of 35 women who sing for an audience of one: A patient undergoing cancer treatment or Hospice care.

They call themselves the Threshold Choir, a group of volunteer singers who bring music to those at the thresholds of life.

"We don't think of ourselves as offering entertainment so much as just an uplifting presence. We're not you know 'Yadda, yadda, yadda, dadda, dadda, dadda,' We're not that kind of group," Ribaudo says.

Most of the volunteers make it their goal to visit patients once a week at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Beth Israel or the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Haven Hospice at Bellevue.

"Just listening to the choir kind of brings down their anxiety to the point where we're using less medicine even. I mean, it's just, that experience is so profound," says Dr. Zenobia Brown of VNSNY Haven Hospice.

"Music really stirs emotions. It helps patients and families access feelings and emotions and express things that they want to say to each other before the very end," says VNSNY Manager of Volunteer Services Gail Sirota.

The group prepares for their patient visits with rehearsals every other week. There, singers take turns in a reclining chair to recreate singing at a bedside. It's just one way Sue prepares the choir for the emotional experience of singing to a patient at the end of life.

"People just don't realize until you have that surround sound what it can be like to be sung to," Ribaudo says.

It's a therapeutic moment for everyone in the room.

"No matter how I may feel before I come into the room, when rehearsal is over or when we're finished singing at the places where we sing, it just feels wonderful. I feel so lucky that I found the choir," says Carol Mannes, a Threshold Choir singer.

So, for bringing music to those who need a song, Sue Ribaudo and the Threshold Choir are the latest New Yorkers of the Week.

For More Information

There are more than one 100 chapters of the Threshold Choir across the country.

To find out more about the group, visit

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