All this week my evenings have been spent at my local theatre. I am lucky enough to be asked to play as a musician for the shows that are performed at the theatre in my home town. I’ve been doing a number of shows every year for the last five years or so and it’s honestly one of my favourite things that I do, and I enjoy being involved with the most. I’ve always been a big lover of the theatre, especially musical theatre. From a young age, my family and I always took an annual trip in the February half term down to London to see a West End show. The first show I saw on the West End was The Lion King, as I’m sure you’ll agree if you’ve seen it, a fantastic show and the perfect production for a 10-year-old girl’s first West End show. Over the years we went to see many other shows, (it was at one point, my dream as a teenager to one day play in the pit orchestra for ‘Phantom of the Opera’ – could still happen!) but it is now something that has followed me into my adult life, a tradition my sister and I continue, although we now save up and try and see as many shows as possible in one weekend (our current record is 3, we’re trying to beat it).
This early exposure to musical theatre has had a knock-on effect on me; ever since my first experience of that magical buzz of walking through the theatre foyer, the sound of the orchestra tuning up and the house lights dimming, it’s now a love, passion and livelihood that’s stayed with me to this very day (and probably will for life), but anyway, I’m digressing slightly.
I enjoy making music more than anything, and the amazing feeling of playing together with other musicians to make music. Which, of course, in turn also makes many others happy; the cast performing with you and the audience that are watching. As I was playing through the music last night, I realised that I felt included and ‘part of a group’ and it made me think about something really important. Last night made me realise that the people that we work with may possibly feel the same way when they sing with us that I felt playing in the show last night. Would I have felt that same feeling as strongly if I was doing something else? Sat in the pub with friends or watching a film at the cinema? I think that music has a special power that is able to connect and bring people together in a way that nothing else really can. Feeling included is human nature, everyone wants to feel involved and valued by others. Every day the Musical Moments team go to different care homes, community groups or day centres to deliver our musical activities and sing-along sessions. I wondered if people in our sessions feel the same way I did last night? I can only hope so and from the reactions we have from the residents, I think that they probably do.
The people that we work with have an opportunity to play in an ensemble, to sing in a group, to feel like they have a special part in the music, to feel included and valued by other people in the room – the exact same way that I felt last night. Yes, they are two different types of musical groups, but in no way does that change how music and playing together in a group can make you feel. Playing music together is such an important and special thing that should be encouraged at all ages; something that can be done with babies and young children, as encouraging music making with groups of young children helps to develop so many important skills such as, listening, sharing, turn-taking and the value of appreciating other members of the ensemble and what they can bring to the group. I think these are important and valuable skills for life, not just in music.
Group music can help people who may be feeling isolated; if you have a relative in a care home and you know they usually prefer to stay in their room, try and see if you can convince them to come out and try an activity that might be happening. If you know who or what their favourite music is, maybe you can ask the entertainer/activity co-ordinator if they could play their favourite music, at Musical Moments we are always happy to take ‘on the spot’ requests and follow the flow of the group that we’re working with, spontaneity is what also makes musical ensemble playing magical. We can most likely guarantee that the person will probably feel much better if they are feeling comfortable enough to come and join in with a group activity or sing-along.
I really do believe that playing music together is an amazing way to create connections and bond with others, on lots of different levels, as well as training your brain with your communication skills, listening and even improvisational skills too (in the theatre, anything can happen!) so I would encourage it as often as possible, it could be playing in a band or local orchestra if you’re a musician, if you’re not, perhaps joining a singing group or local theatre club, or if you really aren’t ‘musical’ – surely you’ve enjoyed a drunken sing-along with your friends once or twice? 😉
Book a session with Musical Moments and discover the magic of music with your residents – you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or if you fancy a chat, give us a call.