As full of spirit as the month of May (Part 4)
Updated: Jun 16, 2022
Musicians: Kat Eaton (vocals) Pete Lee (piano)
On the last day of the spirited month of May Pete and I sensed a change in atmosphere when we entered Bridgeside Lodge. As we walked through the corridor to the garden room we spied a cut-out of the Queen and walls and windows adorned with Union Jacks and paper decorations to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee. The residents and nurses were animated and chatty in anticipation of this once-in-a-lifetime event and their energy was infectious. We grabbed the keyboard and took the lift to the 3rd floor, eager to join in the festivities.
JC was watching the TV in his room when we arrived and welcomed us in to jam, promptly asking for his guitar. We talked about the Platinum Jubilee and we asked whether JC remembered the Queen’s coronation. To our surprise he said he did and when I asked if he’d remembered where it was filmed he exclaimed “Ally Pally!” (Alexandra Palace in North London - not exactly correct but we'll call that poetic licence!) We chatted about Ally Pally being on the TV recently and together we realised it was because the latest series of Later With Jools Holland is being filmed there. Naturally we decided to play a Jools classic Alright, Okay, You Win together with JC taking the lead and treating us to an impassioned guitar solo. When we asked JC what he’d like to play next he announced in his radio DJ voice “Walk The Line by Johnny Cash”, which Pete and I busked while JC happily took the lead again.
We left JC’s room feeling energised and decided to try and find a new resident to work with. We walked passed S’s open door and quietly knocked. S was awake and in bed and we after we’d introduced ourselves we asked if he’d like some music. He softly nodded his head so we set up quickly and quietly. After assessing the environment we decided that something calm and peaceful would be appropriate.I started reciting some Shakespeare, which was accompanied by Pete’s beautiful free-fall piano musings. After a minute or so S looked a little agitated and slowly sat up, got out of bed and walked towards us. We asked him if he’d like us to stop but he was unable to answer us so we slowly packed up and walked out of his room. I was worried that we might have upset him but to our surprise he calmly followed us down the corridor and into the communal space where we found activities co-ordinator Yvette. On seeing the three of us together Yvette helped S to a chair and asked him if he’d like some music. Again he nodded his head yes. It is not always plain sailing reading the body language of the residents that are unable to speak at Bridgeside Lodge. We had assumed that S wanted to leave his room because he wanted to leave the live music behind but maybe he just wanted to move closer to it.
We bumped into JS and we sang Amazing Grace together. To our surprise JS added a 3rd harmony and we were all thrilled by our impromptu corridor concert and parted in high spirits.
The 3rd floor's Jubilee party was a-jumping! At the table were six residents and four carers and an array of tasty looking cupcakes twinkled like gems on the beautifully laid table. We set up in the corner and started playing God Save The Queen as more residents joined us, not just from the 3rd floor but from all over BSL. JG was one of the first in the room and she made a bee-line for Pete and I saying how pleased she felt to being able to talk to other creatives. She said she was going to be in and out of the room but she wanted to let us know that she was still listening and that we were important. She said:
“I really appreciate you being here and this makes me very happy.”
JG is very chatty and, similarly to a few of the other residents’, she likes to be close when she speaks to you. Sometimes this feels a little uncomfortable and it’s hard to keep your physical distance and maintain personal boundaries whilst still trying to keep people engaged. Pete and I have spoken about this in the past and we remembered that we thought a good way of combatting this is for both of us to stay behind the keyboard, that way there is a physical divide. This worked to an extent with JG but she was still very keen to talk instead of of listening and feeling the benefit of the therapy we provide. When I finally found a natural pause in the conversation I started singing and she instantly relaxed. Afterwards Pete and I thought it might be helpful for us to direct the conversation a little more so she can make the most of us being there. We took the opportunity to perform a little Shakespeare during the party and JG and DW chimed in, with a look of pride for being able to recall something they learnt in their childhood.
Most songs follow a similar structure; verse, chorus, verse, chorus… but spoken word is in the moment, it’s present and it requires your full attention to keep up with its changing narrative and rhythms. It’s powerful and it’s been a joy to be able to play with our creativity and imaginations by combining music and literature over the last four weeks and something I will continue to offer the residents at Bridgeside Lodge. Maybe we can introduce dialogue from residents’ favourite films complete with the soundtrack? Or read passages from their most beloved novels and create a soundscape around them to fit the mood in real time? Maybe we can even bring soundscapes accompanied by a little spoken-word by poets such as Kate Tempest, into the mix?! Who knows? The world is our Oyster! But for now…
… Our revels now are ended.
These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
William Shakespeare From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1