Oh Happy Day
Updated: Oct 4
Musicians: Izo Fitzroy, Anthea Henry and Jade Elliot (vocals) Marcus Bonfanti (guitar, vocals)
On Tuesday afternoon, vocalist Izo Fitzroy, invited two fellow singers and members of the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir, Jade Elliot and Anthea Henry, to join her and Marcus Bonfanti for an afternoon of gospel, soul and blues.
We were meeting Anthea and Jade for the first time and it was great to hear about their experiences of singing with other charities and community groups and especially of the choir that they and Izo are a part of.
The anticipation built amongst residents and staff as people began arriving in the garden and found spots with a good view of the stage. Even the soundcheck blew us away!
The choir opened with Bill Withers’ ‘Lean On Me’, Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher’ and The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ ‘Oh Happy Day’.
Resident SR, a big Chaka Khan fan asked me if I thought they’d play ‘Ain’t Nobody’ and at that moment Izo, Jade and Anthea burst into the chorus, in three-part harmony. SR just said “I can’t believe it!”. Throughout the session she seemed moved both positively and in some cases negatively. We could see that certain songs had a negative connotation for her and the musicians tactfully rounded these songs off more quickly than perhaps they might have.
Resident SR seemed very moved, saying that she felt ‘ecstatic’ and that the music made her want to “stand up and dance, I know I can do it.”
The gospel sounds filled the garden and seemed to captivate and energise people in different ways. Resident IR, who doesn’t usually settle for long, sat happily in the front row, clapping along for the entire session.
Meanwhile, a relative who hasn’t engaged with the music much previously, turned from the table where she was sitting with her father, towards the musicians and started waving her hands, singing and clapping along and cheering after each song.
The musicians' voices each had their own unique qualities. They sounded beautiful both individually and in harmony, listening to them felt like an almost spiritual experience.
The music prompted teachers and staff from the school across the canal to come out of their classrooms and listen from the balcony which overlooks Bridgeside Lodge. Passers-by on the towpath also stopped, some sat down (one even lay down) and enjoyed the performance.
There was a small interlude as GH, our resident Baritone Barrister, interjected with ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’, swiftly accompanied by Marcus. GH is always keen to demonstrate her impressive lung capacity, especially when new musicians are visiting and today was no exception!
Marcus led the band in a few Bridgeside classics, which felt extra magical boosted by three female voices, including ‘Three Little Birds’ accompanied by JR on his new ukulele, one of Resident JC’s favourites Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis Tennessee’ and Madness’ ‘It Must Be Love’ for J-BL and her partner Matt. The band took requests, several of which they didn’t know but after a quick conference and checking of keys, delivered impressive renditions of as many as possible.
During the second part of the set, the band took requests from the residents including The Beatles ‘Here Comes the Sun’, Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’, Carol King’s ‘Natural Woman’ and Harry Belafonte’s ‘Jump In The Line’
Overall we found the changes of response and engagement from some residents and their families so interesting, today’s session seemed to have sparked something that we hadn’t seen in many of them before. This is definitely a line-up we’d like to repeat and really hope Jade and Anthea will return soon.
"Thank you so much for yesterday - can’t stop thinking about it! What a beautiful afternoon, can’t thank you enough for getting us involved.” Jade Elliot, Vocalist.
That same morning, saxophonist Pete Wareham visited Bridgeside. Playing solo sax for residents one to one by their bedsides, as well as in the communal areas. He’s been doing this most weeks of late, which we think the residents have really benefited from. After today’s session he fed-back about a couple of moments that were particularly interesting;
“I was playing for SR and at one point I stopped playing the ‘song’ and just
did loads of really fast arpeggios and scales. She became really animated -
it felt like the music was clearing her mind with the fast lines and runs!
I did the same thing for GH and had the same effect. It had the real sense
of the music travelling down new neural pathways.
Shortly after, I met DH (son of resident GH) in the corridor and we talked about Pete’s session:
'Yes I thought Mum had had music this morning, when I
came in to see her she seemed particularly happy.’