Live Music Now trained six Kingston University students to perform eight weekly sessions each to a person and carer, matched for musical taste by Age Concern Kingston, 2010-2011
Angie sings jazz to A, who used to sing oratorio and play the piano, and now has dementia, and her husband M. Here she is rediscovering her vocal and keyboard skills - to M’s surprise - gradually recalling the lyrics as she performs ‘Hey Big Spender’.
A had been excited at the thought of singing again. Angie had brought a songbook, to choose songs together. She sang, then spoke the words to A, who began to sing them to the CD backing track, and they sang together. Each week, Angie notices improvements.
At first, A’s memory for melody was stronger than for words. She put in fractions of words into the tune, not necessarily the right words, but at the key moment. Gradually, over the sessions, she brought the words together with the melody. As a visual aid, Angie introduced them to YouTube. At once the couple started dancing, and ‘Woo-wooing to the Chatanooga Choo-Choo. "That’s great! We’ll be on this all the time", exclaimed her husband.
For Angie, the challenge is to think of something new each week.
Joanna plays ceilidhs on her violin for a man recently diagnosed with dementia. "How could we live without music?" he asks. His wife urges, "This should be made available for all Alzheimer's Patients. It stimulates the brain and helps the patient's memory."
"It’s wonderful to feel I can help towards someone’s healing using my vocal skills. I feel part of something special. It’s like watching someone wake up from sleep and recall their dream in great detail, as if I were waving a fairy wand over A and suddenly she sprang into life. We're having fun together. It's exhilarating!"