National Arts in Care Homes Day
Morning: Nawazish Ali-Khan (vocals and harmonium), Laurence Corns (guitar) and Ben Hazleton (bass)
Afternoon: Arthur Lea (piano and vocals), Laurence Corns (guitar and vocals), Ben Hazleton (bass) and Wesley Gibbens (drums)
Today was National Arts in Care Homes Day (yes, really – it restores our faith in humankind that such a thing exists!) and we had a very special programme of treats in store for the music-lovers at Bridgeside Lodge.
Breaking from our regular Wednesday afternoon schedule, we kicked off at 11a.m. with the first of our two live acts, a North Indian classical trio led by the hugely respected and phenomenally gifted vocal and harmonium master Nawazish. The Spitz were introduced to Nawazish’s work through his pupil Laurence, one of our most regular singer-guitarists. Also accompanying Nawazish was regular Spitz bassist Ben who delighted residents with his unexpected multi-instrumentalist talent for the tabla!
A new cold snap confirming summer’s now definitely over, made it hard for many of the residents to spend as long as they’d have liked outdoors (although we did get plenty of waves and smiles from upper balconies.) The upside is that this way we got a chance to chat in-depth to those who braved the cold. I had a wonderful long chat with H.S, a gentleman whose wife G is a bedbound resident. He showed me a video on his phone of her response to the music, moving her foot along in time! He gave me a much deeper insight into the trauma of recent months at the home and the many friends they’ve lost. I asked him if life feels any easier now, and he explained that it’s more like developing a rhythm, living day by day and treasuring moments like this one. I asked what our weekly sessions mean to him and his wife – “more than you know,” he said. “They give us hope.”
In the band’s break Tanya played violin to guests through their windows who chatted and clapped from their rooms, taking requests including Schubert’s beautiful Ave Maria. This morning’s show was a complete departure from the classic jazz, swing and early pop repertoire we typically bring. It’s so important to us that everyone has access to continue discovering and exploring new styles and sound worlds, regardless of age, and the reactions of the residents who joined us certainly suggest they feel the same.
The threat of rain became unignorable during our lunch break and we had a four piece band booked for the afternoon, so unfortunately BSL’s gazebo was too small. Luckily, we were able to adapt and ensure the show could go on! Thom covered the PAs, mixers, and electricals with waterproofs and the musicians were happy to huddle under the shelter of the 1st floor balcony for cover.
We had Arthur Lea on the keys, Laurence Corns on the guitar, Ben Hazleton on the double bass, and Wesley Gibbens on the drums. They played a wonderful mixture of jazz, swing, and BSL favourites (including several residents’ songs.) Although most of the audience members were sitting in the common rooms and watching through the windows, we were reassured that they could hear the music quite clearly. G attempted to brave the chilly weather, as he always loves our sessions, but in the end he contented himself with bringing his armchair right up the window and having tea and biscuits in Covid’s equivalent of a front row seat!
Visitors were allowed to sit in the common room to visit their loved ones. They wore extensive PPE and were socially distanced, but all seemed agreed that this kind of visit was better than nothing. E.J’s nephew sat with her and G as the two friends enjoyed the music. He told us afterwards that E.J had instantly perked up when the musicians started: “It was really wonderful to watch.” Another family visitor joked with us as she left saying: “I might time my next visit for when The Spitz isn’t scheduled. Mum was more interested in the music than in me!
A member of staff took one of our iPads into residents’ bedrooms and the band were able to play to them through our second iPad outside. J was particularly pleased, and we could hear him singing along to his favourite Frank Sinatra songs, clapping and saying hello to the musicians! Towards the end we thought we had a keen new audience member, as Tom-Tom the Center’s cat sat staring at the musicians for about 10 minutes! We soon realised that he hadn’t developed an appreciation for music though — it turned out his food bowl was under Wesley’s chair!