• Thom Rowlands

Playing with brushes

Musicians: Nat Keen (guitar & voice) and Thom Rowlands (guitar & voice)


We aim to help the development of musicians, in addition to our primary objective of reducing isolation and loneliness through live music. This means pairing up musicians who may not have worked together before, or giving performers the opportunity to develop and work on areas of their craft that they wish to improve.


Guiatists Nat Keen and Thom Rowlands have both been working on their vocals and so another new musical partnership was born on Friday at BSL (Bridgeside Lodge). Nat and Thom wandered the halls of BSL independently, visiting residents in their rooms and then meeting up to perform together several pre-planned songs at the end of the session.


“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to try and

improve my singing. Practicing at home is one thing

but there’s no substitute for a live audience and on the

whole, BSL residents and carers make a forgiving one!”


On the ground floor Thom visited J - a new resident, much younger than the majority of the occupants of BSL. J is able to communicate verbally and Thom told him about The Spitz, about our partnership with BSL. J told Thom that he loves reggae and they sang three Bob Marley songs together - No Woman No Cry, 3 Little Birds and Redemption Song.


“The intro riff of redemption song was one of the first things

I learned on guitar when I was in school, but it was on

J’s prompting that I performed it for the first time today.”


Thom visited Resident I. in his room and played some jazz standards. I. is non-verbal, but is able to communicate through body language.


"I got the sense that he wanted me to play but also

wanted to keep the TV on. He kept nodding at me

in a yes/good/carry on/thank you sort of a way.

He was watching Deal Or No Deal, so I used the

tense background music as a metronome"


As Thom visited residents on the ground and first floors, Nat took floors 2 and 3. Nat said of the session:


I spent a long time with G today, he seemed quite disorientated/upset and was asking for my help to leave his bed. He seemed to calm down dramatically when I played 'A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square' for him (a jazz ballad about a romance in London). I mentioned that it was a difficult song to sing and that I could do with some help singing. He repeated that he wasn't musical but that his mother used to sing lots when he was a child. He took on my invitation and sang along beautifully. We talked about his memories of WW2 and read through the lyrics of the song together which brought him to tears.

A and I chatted in spanglish about her family and her memories of Barcelona. She described how she'd really enjoyed Alice and Ben's visit [2 days previous] and how the Irish song Alice sang was beautiful. I mentioned how I love flamenco and asked her to clap along to a piece I know.

JC and I played 'Only You' which is a slightly more tender song compared to the usual bluesy jams we play together. He seemed to enjoy it and sang along.

After their solo sessions, Thom and Nat met up for a bit of a shindig in the communal area of the second floor - joined by A and by C, who had on previous visits had told them both to shut up (!) but this time was much more accommodating. She enjoyed telling the guys to sit down next to her, offering cups of tea and comparing their heights in her broken English, (Thom and Nat also working on their Italian!) G was in his usual spot sitting opposite the lifts,

surveying all that passed by.


G gave Beatles requests and sang along, helping with the lyrics to Michelle, Hey Jude and Blackbird.


Nat asked NJ to join them on percussion, at which point he sat down, whipped a hairbrush out of his jacket pocket and laid down a beat on the coffee table. Giving a whole new meaning to “playing with brushes”!


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