Musician: Marcus Bonfanti (guitar, vocals)
Doing the sessions solo is always very different to the duos, just as the garden sessions are different to the room-to-room sessions and also the morning sessions to the afternoon. It's really interesting how they are all noticeably different.
As a duo, there is interplay between the musicians which the residents feed off a lot of the time. With someone like Ben [Hazleton, double bassist] it’s a beautiful experience when we attempt a song that he hasn’t heard before, as you hear someone play purely by ear and you develop something together which is totally improvised throughout the song.
Playing solo does mean you have to think a lot about where you focus your attention, so as to make sure everyone feels included when playing to groups. When I did my first solo session last year I remember feeling very exposed and slightly nervous about going into people’s rooms by myself. Now I feel like I really know the place and the residents, there is no trepidation about this at all. I very much like this feeling, more about that later…
As I arrived I felt a distinct 'Monday morning' feel. Bridgeside Lodge was quite subdued and calm. This definitely influences which songs I play and where to start the journey. The session as a whole took a while to get going but by the last hour it was really happening.
I started in the ground floor dining room. [Spitz GM] Thom had told me that resident JR was having a hard time due to a death in family. He was actually in much better spirits than I’d expected. He told tell me about the session the previous Friday out in the garden with Nat [Keen] and his band, that JR’s brother had come and filmed him singing his own song No Stress Express. We watched the video on his iPad and then sang some of our classics from Bob Marley and Bill Withers. One of the incredible thing about JR is that he has memorised songs we have played at Bridgeside in the relatively short time he has been there.
There were a couple of other residents in the room too who wanted something a bit more from their world so we sang The Glory of Love with JR joining in on the parts he knew and The Apple Tree Rag with him again joining in. Some new members of staff I hadn’t seen before were there too and they really got involved.
I went to see resident JC in her room, she told me that she wasn't very well and that some music would be nice. She looked a lot more frail than when I had last seen her. I played three old jazz songs from her and we talked a little too. She was, as always, so thankful for it.
I went up to the first floor next and played in the dining room. There wasn't many in but resident JA was there. She was really receptive to the music and asked me a lot of questions. My Doc Martens had some mud on the end from a festival this weekend and she thought it was blood and asked me who I had been kicking?! When I told her it was mud we had a proper laugh about it, she kept getting up and saying 'we need more people in here'. She has changed so much from that day we first met her, she was so self-defeating that day. She seems to have found a cheeky side which is so lovely to see and she kept cracking little aside jokes during the songs to do with certain lyrics I sang.
I then went to visit Mr FS. As I walked in he said "Let It Be please" so I played that and he sang along to the parts he knew and then we did Hotel California, which I know is his favourite. A carer came in mid-song and joined in. That lifted the mood some more.
My favourite moment was going to see Ms SR. Carer Dee who is always so nice to us, asked me to come with her to SR’s room. When I arrived Dee said “look who it is!” and she shouted "Marcus" it really surprised me that she knew who I was and it made me feel so special. I sang three songs for her that she requested and also Happy Birthday as it was her birthday yesterday. She kept saying "I am so happy" it was really beautiful. I won’t forget that moment ever.
Then up to floor two and I bumped into David (son of resident Ms GH) on the stairwell. We went up to see his mum who was in good spirits. She was very keen to show me photos of her family and some artwork she had done. GH really reacts to certain lyrics of the songs and has certain 'triggers' that I am now aware of. I have started to mumble over certain lines that have the words mother or baby in, those words tend to upset her quite a lot, she really listens to the lyrics and picks those words out every time. She really loves the up-tempo swing numbers and was dancing energetically. They then accompanied me to all the other places I went and she engaged the whole time and kept saying thank you.
Then on to see Ms AS, I did some songs for her and she clapped throughout saying "yes darling, I love you darling". She told me how lucky she was to have such a wonderful family and asked me about mine. She also has a daughter called Isabella (something we have in common) she was very keen to tell me about.
Then on to the common area of floor two, I was running out of time but I had learnt loads more Beatles tunes especially for Mr GH. At first he said he didn’t fancy any music but Ms GM was sat nearby and said "well I want some!” I wasn’t sure what to do so I told him to tell me stop playing if he wasn't happy. I played Love Me Do (one of the new ones i'd learnt) and suddenly he was tapping his feet and joining in. We did another three Beatles tunes all together a few of the carers started dancing. Suddenly we had loads more residents and carers all going for it so there was no way I was getting out of there without doing a few more!
There were so many lovely moments today during songs where I shared a smile with certain residents. Not much more to say other than every time it’s different and I love that. Thanks again for allowing me to be part of the incredible thing you guys do. It's a real privilege.