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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

Music - a lifelong companion

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar, vocals)

It's always great to meet new residents, unique characters entering into the special dynamic of their new home. As musicians and members of this wider community, we can play an important part in making what must often feel like a disorientating and challenging relocation, hopefully less frightening and more familiar.

For many people music is a profoundly significant part of their identity, it's a sort of life-long companion that has accompanied us on our long journey and has the powerful ability to transport us back to defining moments or memories that define who we are. In many ways care homes are places where identity is stripped back for residents, autonomy is generally diminished and the familiar surroundings and possessions that we might take for granted are no longer surrounding us. Music however, can remind us of who we are, reconnecting us with ourselves and a sense of playfulness.

I met Mr KL today, an older man who seemed to struggle to find words but with a face full of expression, as I played, he seemed to encourage me to continue with a gentle forward nod and a warm smile. I wasn't sure that he was really 'hearing' the music that I was playing, perhaps he was simply enjoying the proximity of my company, however when I glanced down at his impressively smart and shiny shoes, I noticed that he was shifting his feet with a youthful nimbleness in perfect synchronisation with my rhythm. I felt emboldened to offer him the small hand drum that I had been carrying around, hoping that we could carry on drumming together. He accepted my gift and after investigating its interesting sound by dragging his nails across the surface. He seemed to decide that it would suit him much better as a handbag and slung the strap over his shoulder and attempted to make for the door. It was an intriguing and enjoyable first meeting.

Ms AS was on top form today! She calls me 'Pepe' (my adopted Spanish Flamenco name) and is fond of hearing about my adventures in the south of Spain. Today we talked about the worrying increase in temperatures there, I had been informed that it had reached 40°C that very day near Sevilla (in April!) and how whole towns were forbidden from using any water. AS seemed concerned that it would be too hot for an English man to live there and so I decided to make light of the situation by singing an improvised Flamenco-esqe song about my concerns...

In the latter half of my visit, I visited P in the sunny upstairs lounge where we played through some of his favourite songs and chuckled about some of the funny characters we could see by the canal. I also spent a while with long time Spitz collaborator Ms SR who was enjoying listening to the music and joking around with a particularly upbeat member of the care staff. We talked about the various residents who would come and go to listen, SR would intermittently chime in with some perceptively choice comments such as 'he loves music but he finds it hard to be around people'....or...'she always sits there and loves Elvis, she's a creature of habit'.....We finished the day with Stevie Wonder's 'Isn't She Lovely' which left us all feeling upbeat.

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