• Nathaniel Keen

Shall we sing some carols?

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar vocals)

I was feeling Christmassy today, perhaps a little prematurely but I'd just finished an incredibly busy period of work and was enjoying winding down into holiday mode. From the testing room I noticed resident JG standing at her door, she had also clocked me and so I called out 'Good afternoon, shall we sing some Christmas Carols?' ...'Oh yes please!' she replied.

Our choir today consisted of JG on lead vocals and lyric-remembering, Leyla [her primary carer] on backing vocals and internet-lyric-research with myself on harmonising and conducting duties. I was impressed but not surprised by JG's deep memory of lyrics, she effortlessly recounted the words to 'In the Bleak Mid Winter', 'Once in Royal David City' and many more familiar carols. I asked her if she'd learnt these at school or from her parents but it became clear that musical expression wasn't something promoted or encouraged in either of these environments. It seems that much of the musical joy that JG experienced had come from her experiences whilst singing in a local choir.

After singing 'In The Bleak Mid Winter', she was visibly moved and we subsequently talked about our shared appreciation of the more melancholic carols. It seems that we are both drawn to those melodies and harmonies that have a dash of sadness and nostalgia running through them. As we started to read through the lyrical content of the carols, it became clear that quite a lot of them are actually fairly dour and downcast!

After this Leyla chimed in with her idea to connect JG with DW, the music lover on the third floor, both adore music and both adore chatting so it seemed like a perfect idea. It was heart-warming to see the genuine care that Leyla has for JG and the other residents in her care. Sometimes we all need help connecting with each other and she does a fantastic job in facilitating that.

Later that day I went to see JB who was being visited by her partner. I hadn't seen the two of them for many months and I instantly remembered the overwhelming sense of love between the two of them. I was so happy to notice how much JB has improved, her eyes darted around with energy, following my conversation with her partner and she was able to say a few more words. He seemed uplifted that I'd noticed her progression and as I played songs, we both saw her legs moving in time and her hands shaking with excitement. I promised to come back and see them very soon.

I finished my day with JC, with whom I continued the Christmas cheer, although the themes naturally ended up incorporating bank robberies, cowboy shoot-outs and sheriff Santa galloping on his trusty steed (Rudolph) through the Texan tundra. We cheerfully rocked and rolled until his meal was delivered and in all my time of knowing JC, I've never seen him put his guitar down so quickly!

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