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  • Writer's pictureKate Millett

Transcending language

Musicians: Ben Hazleton (double bass) and Preetha Narayanan (violin and voice)

Our "Classical Mondays" series (supported by The Radcliffe Trust) came to a close this week and despite our best laid plans, part six refused to fall on a Monday. We think 'Classical Thursday' still has a good ring to it...

When Spitz regular Ben Hazleton suggested we invite Preetha Narayanan for a session of traditional South Indian music, we jumped at the chance to broaden our understanding and conceptions of the idea of "classical" music. Preetha is a violinist, singer and composer whose unique musical story crosses countries, cultures, and genres. You can learn more about Preetha and her story on her website here

Ben and Preetha visited resident JG and knowing her love of poetry and early music, played some of [Elizabethan composer and poet] Thomas Campion's work. She loved his poetry and sang along to his music. They also played some Corelli violin sonatas.

On the third floor, resident bluesman JG was fascinated to learn that Preetha grew up in Memphis Tennessee. Knowing that classical isn't really his cup of tea, Ben suggested they play some Bluegrass instead, which went down very well.

The trio of Ben, Preetha and resident GH improvised with elements of Beethoven, hymns (as always), and Christmas carols. G.H booming out long, low notes and exploring her vocal range. .

Ben told us a little more about the session:

Resident L [whose experience is also one of mixed cultures,

being of indigenous New Zealand roots] enjoyed listening to

the Corelli, and we also played a South Indian devotional,

classical piece. L and his carer really enjoyed it. It went down

really well with them and they were both spontaneously

applauding. It was really good.

D's wife was visiting and she spoke about a Dementia charity which she volunteers with. It is linked to the London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s. This is really exciting for us as St Luke's is very close to Bridgeside Lodge and our minds immediately jumped to the possibility of a collaboration. Watch this space! She spoke about the use of timpani and music to help the memory.

Resident S said that although he didn’t understand the words of the Classical Indian pieces, he understood their meaning and they both seemed very moved. This is a perfect illustration of the power of music to connect people, transcending language and culture.


This was Preetha’s first time with the Spitz. She later described her experience at BSL for us:

“It is always a joy to play with Ben! We can move into so many different

musical territories together, which definitely suits this environment.

It has been a while since I did anything of this nature - My mother used to

take me to play at local nursing and care homes in my childhood, in

Memphis Tennessee! This instilled in me the power of music as a gift

and offering itto anyone and everyone, to those in need. It's a

powerful effect which I witnessed again yesterday.

I currently (and through lockdown) lead a weekly meditation online for a

charity for those who have suffered from brain trauma. Complementary

to this, being able to share music and see its effect in person was so

meaningful. I was so moved by the emotional responses and engagement.

G.H with her singing and wild hand gestures!, J.C accompanying on the

guitar, and J.G enjoying in such a refined way our choral music, J.B saying

the words “happy” and “thank you”, with help from her partner.”

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