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  • Writer's pictureKat Eaton

As full of spirit as the month of May

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

Musicians: Kat Eaton (vocals) Pete Lee (piano)

Today we embarked on a brand new project here at Bridgeside Lodge combining music and literature, specifically the works of William Shakespeare. Much like “The Darling Buds Of May” this project blossomed out of a conversation pianist Pete Lee and I had about memory. Most of us can easily recall the lyrics of songs years after last hearing them; they’re stuck in the back of our subconscious ready to be picked up and dusted off. It’s harder for my generation to remember and recite lines from a book or a play but the works of Shakespeare however, are similarly ingrained in our psyche. For Pete and I, we remembered snippets of monologues and sonnets having had them rammed down our throats at GCSE but we wondered whether the residents of Bridgeside Lodge might remember a little more.

We started out with the lovely JC, who always makes a point of telling us how much she appreciates the music that Spitz provides. After a quick catch up we asked her if she’d like to hear about our new project and together we explored how Shakespeare inspired and influenced popular music. Pete then began to play a beautiful free fall piano improvisation beginning in a major key and leaving space for me to recite Sonnet 18“Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day…” JC happily nodded her head, seemingly in recognition, and smiled as we moved through the sonnet and Pete changed chords and time signature to fit with the words and natural rhythm of the phrased. We segued into Gershwin’s Summertime and JC happily sang along. When we’d finished she thanked us and asked for more. We happily obliged and performed a medley of Romeo’s dialogue from the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet with West Side Story’s Somewhere, which received warm appreciation.

Inspired by the lyrics of Summertime, and the early summer sun creeping into JC’s room through the window, Pete asked JC if she could recall any memories of past Summers. JC replied instantly telling us that she had loads of summer memories and that her job allowed her to travel to all sorts of destinations including Cape Town. She spoke about the waves on the white sandy beaches and seeing the Table Mountain for the first time. Pete and I spoke afterwards about the vivid descriptions she gave and we wondered whether by asking a more specific question she could give us a more specific answer. When we spoke about the amazing choreography in West Side Story JC told us all about her dancing days in the dancehalls of London in the 50s and how she met a few of her boyfriends there! She told us that she wondered how girls could ever find their husbands these days without being able to meet them at dancehalls. When we asked if she’d met her husband at a dancehall she giggled to herself and replied “actually no”. Pete and I made a pledge to look up some of these dancehalls, find out their names and try to find a dancehall that was still open so we could bust some shapes!

We then visited JBL, who I’d not met before but had heard all about. As we approached her room we saw the sign on her door saying ‘I love 80s and 90s’ so after asking if we could enter, and JBL welcoming us with a smile, we decided to play some Whitney Houston. She seemed to enjoy it and her smile never left her face. Having only just met JBL, we felt like Shakespeare might have been a bit overwhelming and we wanted to make sure that her first impression of us was one of enjoyment and ease. JBL’s fiancee Matt joined us, taking videos and pictures that he told us he sent to their family and friends. He told us how much JBL and he appreciated Spitz musicians Ben and Alice coming to play for JBL on a recent visit and how it was really making a difference. We said to Matt that now we’ve met JBL we’d love to come and play for her again and wondered what music she’d like to hear. Matt pulled out a Spotify playlist on his phone of the songs she’d selected for their wedding day, one of which was Never Too Much by Luther Vandross, which we were only too happy to perform. We asked Matt to send Spitz the playlist so next time we can prepare a few more songs to play for JBL.

Leaving JBL’s room we bumped into JG in the corridor who seemed a little distressed. When we asked her how she was she replied “not very well actually”. Pete asked her if she thought a little music might make her feel better to which she replied, “yes, maybe it would”. We’ve met JG a few times and always had great conversations and we guessed that she might be a fan of Shakespeare so we told her about our project. JG congratulated us on what sounded like a “really good idea” and we went straight in with Sonnet 18. I only had to say three words and JG finished the line. And then the next line and the next! We carried on back and forth like this with Sonnet 18 and the opening monologue from Twelfth Night (“If music be the food of love play on…”) and the dialogue from Romeo & Juliet. Pete and I were both astounded by her recollection of literature that we could barely remember. When we segued into the songs JG sang along loud and proud with a newly found confidence that wasn’t there when we’d met in the hallway. We left her room singing together and she continued to sing to herself as we walked down the hall towards the garden room where we met SA and her carer.

SA’s carer asked if we could play for her but as soon as we started she slowly slipped off her chair onto the floor and understandably became a little distressed so we signalled to each other to finish. But as we were nearing the end of Over The Rainbow JG, who had followed the music down the hall, came in and sat with us and started singing again. We decided to continue at a quieter volume for the benefit of JG, which felt a little uncomfortable as SA still seemed to be distressed. It’s challenging trying to appease all members of a group, even if it’s just as small as two individuals, but we instinctively felt that we shouldn’t just abruptly stop playing. Instead we came to a natural close and Pete and I gave each other the nod to move on.

As soon as we got out of the lift on the 2nd floor we were met with 3 residents. GH was in his usual position waiting by the lift and greeted us with a smile when we arrived. We started playing Moon River, which everyone seemed to be enjoying. JS was very vocal flitting between being a little distressed asking “have you seen my rolex?” to being very happy, exclaiming “oh this is lovely! We need to keep you”. We decided it might be beneficial if we approached JS and brought the volume and the tempo down so we could create a calmer atmosphere. Sure enough, JS calmed down and focussed in on the song and began to sing along quietly. But this calm atmosphere didn’t last very long when we were joined by 2 other residents and their carers who wanted a party! So happily we played Stevie Wonder and The Beatles and everyone sang and clapped along energetically. We even had some dancing from the carers and nurses and at one point JS started dancing too! We attempted a tiny bit of Shakespeare assuming it would fall on deaf ears at this particular moment but to our surprise GH, who hasn’t spoken to us before, recited a few lines of Shakespeare back to us. Then we went into Food Glorious Food from Oliver which was met with applause. When we left the group Pete reminded everyone of the line in Oliver “can I have some more” and GH, not missing a beat, piped up with a booming “MORE?!” complete with raised eyebrow, just like Mr Bumble – a true thespian in the making!

We are looking forward to what surprises are in store next week for part 2 of As Full Of Spirit As The Month Of May.

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