• Kate Millett

"Music is Love and Life"

Musicians: Nat Keen (guitar and voice) and Kate Millett (voice)

It really felt like Spring had sprung on Friday. Many of the bed-bound residents sat with their windows open and the sun shining down on them whilst listening to our music. G was particularly happy to see Nat and his guitar. He recognised Nat immediately (“He’s my friend!”)—remarkable for a man with advanced dementia. In between songs, G showed us the views from his window. He got very excited about a lovely Labrador who was playing fetch with its owner. G is a real music enthusiast, but clearly also a dog lover and it was apparent that his attentions were torn! Two of his neighbours came to investigate the source of the music. R and S.I were invited in by G the host and offered seats! He was in lovely form, sociable, engaged, smiling, chatty and grateful for our visit.

“Thank you so much for making this so much fun. Music is always a pleasure.”

- Resident G, BSL

Neighbours G.H and A.S are not picky with their music choices. G.H will join in with anything, singing “Daaahs” and “Laaas” in an impressively strong alto voice. We improvised with her, letting her lead and experiment with where the music took us, and made up songs about her impressive career as a Barrister. A.S, a friendly resident from Barcelona, was visibly touched when Nat improvised some guitar Flamenco tunes. She clapped along and started telling us stories in Spanish.

“I’m feeling happy, music makes me happy.”

- Resident A.S, BSL

It’s always encouraging when residents recognise songs. After the first two chords of the intro to Bob Marley’s ‘Waiting in Vain’, S was already joining in and bobbing her head. Nat gave her a couple of chorus solos which she enthusiastically sang. S is partially paralysed and aphasic, so her vocal and rhythmic responses to music are amazing. We also chatted to C, who was in an unusually good mood! She often refuses our offer of music (sometimes rudely) but today she said she wouldn’t mind listening. Unfortunately the piece wasn’t to her liking, but instead of shouting “Shut Up”, she politely explained that she suffers from bad ear aches. It is not uncommon for a person with dementia to be very sensitive to sound. So, this polite and friendly chat explains a lot, and marks a nice development in our relationship with C.

Our final visit of the day was to a new resident on the Ground Floor. J.H, who had arrived at BSL a few days before. Fatma, BSL's General Manager, had told us how much he enjoys music, and sure enough he pointed at a poster he’d had put up above his bed stating “What is Life Without Music” J.H is only in his 20s and has a tragic backstory. He seemed shy, but only until the music started! J.H visibly changed as we played for him, his face breaking into a beautiful smile, his eyes bright and his posture suddenly alert. Another reggae fan, he sang along and suggested a variety of songs. Nat, who had a studio recording session to dash off to described our interaction with J.H perfectly:

It’s worth being late for that kind of smile.”

- Nat, musician

“Music is love and life.”

- Resident J.H, BSL

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