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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

It sends me

Musicians: Nat Keen (guitar) Alice Zawadzki (violin & voice)

Today I had the pleasure of playing music with Alice Zawadzki. Due to our busy schedules in recent months our paths have not met at BSL which is a shame as I'm always inspired by her boundless imagination and musical versatility. During the process of administering our lateral flow tests I hummed one of my favourite folk songs to Alice forgetting that I'd partly taught it to her in the past. We both agreed that resident JG would probably enjoy listening as she often expresses her love of melancholic traditional music so that's where we headed first.

I'd been meaning to spend a good amount of time with JG today. I wanted to ask some questions about her experience of our musical visits for a report I am writing for one of funders of The Spitz. After Alice and I performed 'As I Roved Out' by Planxty, I asked JG how listening to music in our sessions makes her feel:

It makes me feel very different to how I normally

feel, I normally feel harassed, worried and aware of

all the things I've left undone. At it's best, music

takes me away from all of that'

We sat, talked and played to JG for a good while, her appreciation of being included and valued was evident. She appeared engaged and excited to learn new things about the music we were playing. We whisked her around the world with Klezma music, South African folk songs, Scottish Jigs and Jazz ballads from the 1940s and felt our own sense of nourishment as she vividly described her younger life, long ago during the Blitz.

It turned out that today would have a nostalgic WW2 theme as our next visit would stir up some more vivid memories of 1940's London, this time from JG's next door neighbour JC. After Alice and I played some songs from the great American songbook from roughly around the time of WW2, conversation smoothly transitioned into JC’s personal memories of living in London during the blitz. She described how her and her friends were often more terrified of the loud anti-aircraft guns firing than the actual bombs and how the Anderson shelter that her parents had erected in their front garden was often frequented by passers by, either too drunk or desperate to make it back to their own toilets. Instead her mother used to instruct her to sleep under a very thick oak dining table in the hope that it would protect her from shrapnel etc. It was also an eye-opening story when she recalled losing school friends in the bombings and how it was common for parents to fabricate the truth saying that they'd 'gone away on holiday'. Alice suggested that we play the beautiful Gershwin song 'Bess, You Is My Woman Now' which seemed to encapsulate the bittersweet feelings of a lost age. Alice and I felt honoured to have JC as our direct link to such an evocative period of our history and we lapped up all of the stories she shared with us, in turn JC mentioned that it was important to keep these stories alive and to remember the reality of living through a war.

We rarely see JC in the communal areas of Bridgeside Lodge so I really feel that these sessions are a vital lifeline for her. After we had finished playing one jazz ballad for her she told us;

“I absolutely love it when you come, whenever

you first start playing it sends me*'

*To delight, excite, or thrill (someone)

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