Contributed photo. Grisha Krivchenia connects with an elder.

Songs of island elders presented at the San Juan Community Theatre

Long-time island composer Grisha Krivchenia helps those at the end of their lives tell their tales.

“People remain creative to the very end, telling jokes, or old stories in new ways,” said Krivchenia, who has been working with hospice patients through Lifesongs since 2014. Lifesongs is an organization that hires professional artists to facilitate original work with elders and hospice patients.

Krivchenia will share poems, stories and songs by local elders and hospice patients in the San Juan Community Theatre’s program “Up Close,” Sept. 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 2 p.m.

The $15 tickets are available at the theater’s box office, 360-378-3210 or online at sjctheatre.org. Featured islanders include Shann Weston, Nedra Thomas and John Moore.

Krivchenia, a pianist and composer, became involved with Hospice San Juan after meeting Director Mariluz Villa. Due to the fact that the local hospice is small, they decided not just to focus on patients, but to bring the stories and songs of other local elders. Then they brought their idea to Bobby Ryan, executive and artistic director of the San Juan Community Theatre.

According to Krivchenia, Ryan was thrilled about the concept.

Krivchenia’s journey with Lifesong began after learning that they were looking for new composers. Intrigued, he applied and has been working with them for the last three years. He has noticed that although each individual handles the end of life process differently, there are a few commonalities.

Often, people realize there is no time to waste on unimportant things and become extremely present, Krivchenia said. People become focused on family and loved ones. As a result, he became more present as well.

Krivchenia also noted people try to make sense of their past, as far back as their childhood. As Krivchenia works with them, he tries to help them sort out their story by asking questions like what are the moments they had the most happiness, felt the most courageous or a situation where their expectations were not met and why.

He has found that music also seems to resonate with the people.

“Music reconnects individuals with their emotions,” he explained during an interview with the Journal about his Tedx talk last September. Music often opens a rich storehouse of memory, Krivchenia continued, making it a powerful tool of expression. Frequently, he plays music in the background while the two talk about their life stories. One man, Krivchenia said, was so moved by music that it didn’t matter what Krivchenia played, the man would become so emotionally overwhelmed, he would cry.

“This [Up-Close performance] will be a celebration of life,” Krivchenia clarified, although it will be dealing with old age and death, these are the tales of the island community, and there will be fun and laughter. “The songs are celebratory.”

For information on Up Close visit sjctheatre.org or for more information on San Juan Hospice visit hospiceofsanjuan.org.

To see Krivchenia’s Tedx talk, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkn0WWWb5EU.