• Nathaniel Keen

A booming baritone

Musicians: Nathaniel Keen (guitar) Pete Lee (piano)

Pete and I began by visiting resident AS. We'd wanted to show her a video of a particularly joyful moment of Alice [Zawadzki] and I playing for her during a previous visit. Videos are an excellent way of demonstrating the unique and important interactions our musicians share with the residents and today we'd hoped AS would kindly give her approval to us using one of these publicly. On this occasion we found her to be suffering from physical ailment and understandably wasn't feeling in a receptive mood for music, however we promised her that we'd be back to visit as soon as she was ready.


AS's neighbor GH invited us in with her characteristic excitable, cheeky grin. She was keen to show us her extensive book collection neatly stacked on her bed. After reminding us of her barrister status and proudly displaying the front cover of every book she then turned our attention to her notepad which contained left-handed writing exercises and stand alone words that she wanted us to see...'shoes'....'heather'....'rose'. We began to explore these words and merge them into musical happenings, GH's animated arms started to snake around above her head in pure expressive freedom. After this we offered up some Elvis, 'Can't Help Falling In Love' was to be the song and as we played it through Pete and I noticed tears forming in her eyes, very different tears to the sort which she playfully calls up when we mention that we're leaving at the end of the sessions. We concluded our musical offering by improvising some acapella arrangements of Hymns and Christmas carols, a little bit premature in my opinion although some of them are corkers and work at any time of the year.


Next we played a mini concert for GH, ML and AK who all seemed to be in calm and receptive moods. We tested GH's knowledge of obscure Beatles songs which he passed with flying colours, his resonant baritone vocals booming out perfectly in tune. I then began to play a country song which AK seemed curious about, she beckoned me over and quietly asked me a question; 'what's this song about?'. Feeling buoyed by this audience participation I then read out and explained the lyrics of the song in a thick Texan accent and encouraged everybody to contribute in whichever wild west noises that came to mind, sheriff GH piped up with 'yeeeeeahh'. We have seen a really significant change in GH since we first began visiting Bridgeside Lodge. In the early days, he rarely engaged with us. As we began visiting more regularly, we might get a nod, a smile, a hello and now he joins in, often attending our group sessions in the garden, requesting songs and artists. It's been a real joy to see and we hope it continues.


Towards the end of the day we visited JG and taught her the melody to 'The Mountain' which is a beautiful and meditative tune by Abdullah Ibrahim in the tonality of G major pentatonic. We explained that pentatonic scales are common place in most cultures of the world and their beauty seems to resonate in a very deep way. As we continued to play, Pete took the sheet music over to her and together they scanned over the notes with Pete patiently helping to guide her through the geography of the notation. JG seemed to really enjoy this melody deeply and as we approached the chorus/main theme she anticipated the significant moment and exclaimed 'it's coming!'


We both thanked JG for lifting our days up and then I assured her that she'd receive more musical treats very soon; 'perhaps Alice [Zawadzki] will come to see you next week'. JG seemed unable to remember who Alice was from my description and we subsequently chatted about how amazing the brain is in its ability to remember musical phrases but not necessarily people...to illustrate this we finished by singing 'Ah Robin', (a song that we'd taught her many months ago) which she recalled instantly.



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