Tag Archives: Care home

Clarinets coming home – Everyone Matters at Benslow Music Trust

Year after year each return to Benslow feels to me like another coming home. The house wraps round me as I walk into the hall, I promise the reception team yet again that this year I really won’t lose my room key, and it’s hugs all round as clarinet players convene for another intensive weekend of non-stop playing: clarinet choir, clarinet ensemble, clarinet masterclass, clarinet recital and, this year for the second time as part of the David Campbell Clarinet Weekend, the Everyone Matters group working towards performances in local Hitchin care homes. My clarinet colleagues David Campbell and Ian Scott are on board this year to share coaching the Everyone Matters group as they prepare to perform in the homes, and pianist John Flinders is also on hand to work through the clarinet solos that several of our group plan to perform at our Monday community concerts with me accompanying at an electric keyboard that is already stowed in my car for the care homes that don’t have pianos.

It is so easy now for me to set up the care centre concerts, as all the venues welcome us as old friends and are eager for us to return. This year it was Leonard Cheshire Disability that chose to host our Monday morning concert at Symonds House, where our welcoming audience included a number of staff and residents who had seen some of us in previous years. The intimacy of the room encouraged a very informal atmosphere throughout the concert, with lots of questions from our audience including a fascinating discussion initiated by one of the wheelchair users who asked the thought-provoking question “Why do the clarinets all sound different?” initiating a rewarding discussion in which each player was able to explain some of the details of their own reed, mouthpiece and instrument set-up as well as touching on the differences between individual approaches to tone production.

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Linda, Rosemary and Cathy have all played in Hitchin care centres previously, and at Highbury Rise following the afternoon concert Linda found a gentleman who had been born near her own Croydon home, enabling the two of them to share reminiscences of Thornton Heath ponds, leading to him telling the story of how he ran away to sea at age 15.

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Chris plays folk fiddle as well as clarinet, flute and recorder, and he offered us a welcome interlude from wall-to-wall clarinets with two Irish jigs for which he wrote out a shadowing harmony part for me as a duo accompaniment.

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It’s a big ask for a group of amateur players to come together with only short rehearsal time, as part of a densely timetabled weekend, to put together an informal concert programme from scratch, and this group managed it magnificently. The Activities Co-ordinator at Highbury Rise, where many of the residents are living with dementia, wrote afterwards, “Music has a wonderful effect on the brain and evokes memories that may have been forgotten”, and the Volunteer Co-ordinator at Symonds House summed it up: “A lovely concert for a Monday morning”.

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John’s Project – Part 2

John Morris, to whose memory we dedicated our July 2016 “Conversation Pieces – Words and Music uniting the Generations”, gave many hours of administrative time during his retirement years to the Croydon Performing Arts Festival. He was a passionate advocate of the Festival’s Asian Music section, and I think he would have been especially delighted that the second phase of our memorial project this year featured a 14 year old veena player, Malathy Nithiyananthan.

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Malathy was able to come and play just at our last performance at Woodcote Grove House, and we were all thrilled to see this large and beautiful instrument at close quarters as she carried it round the room to show everyone before playing a beautiful raga-inspired piece.

Our other two young musicians for the full two-day project on 19 and 20 July were 15 year old Carol Leader who played flute in the ensembles and a Chopin Nocturne as piano soloist, and 16 year old Joseph Mackley, who played mostly alto saxophone in our programme but who also played his French horn, played a piano solo, and truly enchanted everyone when he sang “Some Enchanted Evening”.

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Ian Fasham, just emerged from an intensive run of Garsington Opera, was able to join Margaret Archibald to lead the rehearsals and to give a sonorous bass to the ensemble numbers flexibly scored for flute, clarinet, saxophone or horn, and trombone. Given this line-up we needed to create some of our own arrangements and to make imaginative use of pre-existing ones. We put in a solid three-hour rehearsal at Red Court Nursing Home, where we were offered free use of a spare lounge all morning to prepare for our concert there that same afternoon. By the time we were eating our picnic under a garden sunshade we had come up with a programme ranging from a Marenzio Madrigal and a Monteverdi Canzonetta to favourites from the West End, film and TV.

We had picked two of the hottest days of the year for these concerts, and after a short rehearsal and morning concert next day at Beth Ezra Trust we were once again grateful for the offer of a shady patch in the garden to eat our picnic. Then it was just a short drive round the corner to Woodcote Grove House, where a few residents from Orford House across the lawn were able to join us in the elegant lounge for the last concert of the series.

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“I had hoped that the project would be fun and different”, wrote Carol, “and it certainly was! As well as playing music, I particularly enjoyed talking to the elderly residents at the 3 care homes to learn about them and their story”. Joe had offered us a wide selection of choices from his repertoire and we particularly wanted him to share two of the most popular items. Later Joe wrote “Your choice of ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ provided great joy and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ put big smiles on everyone’s face. My expectations were exceeded as we made them happier than I had anticipated. Talking to the residents following our concerts was a wonderful opportunity to find out what they enjoyed and hear about the very interesting and varied lives that they have had. It was a very enjoyable two days and it really made people happy”.

Thanks to the generosity of John’s many friends, over the four days of our project two separate groups of young musicians from the Croydon Performing Arts Festival have rehearsed with their professional colleagues and performed alongside them in six of Croydon’s care centres for older people, and we very much hope that this year’s collaborative project will be the first of many.

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Thank you David!

A lovely picture from David in our audience last Tuesday at Cherry Orchard Centre…

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…celebrating the music in our concert for flute, clarinet, trumpet and ‘cello.

Everyone Matters is mounting a four-day project this July in memory of John Morris who worked tirelessly over many years as a volunteer administrator for the Croydon Festival of Performing Arts. The project “Conversation Pieces – Words and Music uniting the Generations” was chosen in discussion with John’s family and friends to celebrate music’s power to bring people together regardless of age or circumstance.

Our first two days took place on 4 and 5 July when 18 year-old flautist Daniel Jacob-Ormson and 17 year-old trumpeter Nick Smith, both Festival prize-winners, rehearsed and performed alongside clarinettist Margaret Archibald and ‘cellist Julia Desbruslais in concerts of Baroque, Classical and traditional music. We started our day with a full morning of rehearsal in the Chapel at Whitgift House, working up a programme of Baroque concerto and trio sonata movements by Caldara, Corelli and Reinhart, a “London” Trio by Haydn, a Church Sonata by Mozart, our own arrangement of the famous Tambourin by Gossec, and traditional tunes including the “Pugwash” hornpipe, the glorious “Danny Boy” appropriately played by Dan on the flute, and the Keel Row briefly featuring the piccolo.

Our first concert on the Monday was at the South Croydon Centre, where we offered post-luncheon entertainment to some 20 older people for whom the Centre provides support, company and hot meals. After a good chat over cups of tea all round, we popped back across the road to give our second concert in the newly refurbished and extended Community Room at Whitgift House; it was good to see so many friends from previous visits to this continuing care community in our audience, including a number who also attend our Tuesday night Music Matters lecture-recitals in Whitgift House Chapel, and a former trombonist who especially enjoyed meeting fellow brass player Nick:

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Tuesday morning began with a short top-up rehearsal followed by our concert at Cherry Orchard Centre that provides day opportunities for adults with learning disabilities. The 50-strong audience ranged from people in their 20’s to others in their 80’s, a lovely reflection of the project’s primary aim to bring the generations together in a shared enjoyment of music. Finally we were off to Wilhelmina House, playing in their new lounge where thankfully we started our afternoon performance just as the bulldozers outside ceased work for the day!

We asked our young colleagues what they most enjoyed about the project; for Nick it was”playing with an ensemble of such a high standard” and for Dan “the response, it was a nice surprise to see how much the audience enjoyed it”.

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Danielle takes her harp to the party in Kingston

Danielle introduces her harp
Danielle introduces her harp

 

Danielle Perrett visited Murray House Day Centre and Bradbury Active Age Centre today, Tuesday 10 February, to perform for enthralled audiences of older people in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.

Audience members keen to have a go...
Audience members keen to have a go…

Everyone Matters has strong links with some twenty venues around the borough, including Tolworth Hospital Cedars Unit and Amy Woodgate House in the South of the Borough, nursing homes and day centres in Maldens and Coombe and in Surbiton, and our musicians are regular performers for audiences at the two centres visited by Danielle today.

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The full series of more than 24 concerts during the 2014-15 season is supported by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames through the four Neighbourhood Grants Committees.

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Back to Benslow

Everyone Matters is delighted to announce that Benslow Music will once again host a residential course for amateur musicians who will come together to rehearse a concert programme for performance in local Hitchin care homes. We piloted this new idea in December 2013 and, following the success of our first course, we have been invited to return  for a course running from the evening of Sunday 14th to late afternoon on  Wednesday 17th September 2014.

Benslow Music is renowned for the opportunities it provides for amateur musicians to make music together. In this unique course, we aspire not only to share the fun of music-making with one another, but to share it with others who live and work in four local care homes.

In 2013, we arrived on an early December evening to start our course with one of the famous Benslow dinners before spending the evening playing through a large pile of music.  Emails had been flying to and fro, and we had come armed with plenty of musical material. A possible programme began to take shape, using the line-up of clarinets, flutes, bassoon and keyboard to the full, and in addition putting the spotlight on some of the extra instruments that had been offered by our doublers, including chromatic harmonica. We rehearsed hard all next day, and it was good to change down a gear for the evening and relax while others did the work at a concert by the London Klezmer Quartet in Benslow’s Morrison Hall. Then it was breakfast, a short top’n tail, and jump into shared cars to get to our first concert, a Coffee Morning at Elmside:

Coffee Concert
Coffee Concert

A dash back to Benslow for lunch left us just about time to get out again for our afternoon performance at Highbury Rise, where Maria had promised us mince pies. In fact, her exact words when I rang to offer her a concert were “If you come here, you’ll have to have homemade mince pies”. Yes, you do see a theme emerging here, that food and drink are important on these occasions . Apart from the side benefit to the musicians, who do (honestly) use a lot of energy and get pretty thirsty when performing, there is nothing like a cup of tea and a mince pie to create an easy, sociable atmosphere and promote conversation.

Earning our mince pies.
Earning our mince pies

Two concerts down, two to go, and on our second day of concerts I decided I would take the box of percussion out of the boot of my car.  Perhaps our performance of “America” from West Side Story was not entirely authentic, but we all had huge fun playing it; every member of the audience at our morning visit to Symonds House Leonard Cheshire Disability, staff and clients alike, enjoyed choosing the instrument that took their fancy from the big red box of maracas, tambourines, drums and guiros.

All in a whirl - Margaret leads the huapanga
All in a whirl – Margaret leads the huapanga

“Thank you so much for the lovely concert that you and your fellow musicians put on for us yesterday” wrote Ros, the Manager at Symonds House. “It was thoroughly enjoyed by us all of us especially the residents. We particularly liked the way that all the musicians introduced us to all their instruments first then explained to us something about the piece of music that they were going to perform. To realize that some of the pieces of music were 300 years old is amazing.  The residents also liked the interaction with the group and the instruments they were allowed to ‘have a go’ with.”

 Finally it was back to Benslow for lunch, and then an afternoon tea at Benslow Nursing Home that would have kept a full symphony orchestra quiet, never mind our little group of seven musicians. I’m not quite sure how we squeezed even just the seven of us, with keyboard and music stands, into the living room, but we managed it somehow, and the quality of repartee throughout the concert, and the level of hilarity as the percussion came out, made the performance a lovely climax to our few shared days of intensive music-making.

Music is for sharing! As we prepared to say our goodbyes we were all in agreement that “sharing” was the watchword, the key, the essence and the whole point of the course. Music is communication, music transcends words, music opens hearts and demolishes inhibition, and the music we offered was our passport to these four most welcoming care homes.

The final word should be with the homes, and Debbie spoke for them all:

Dear Margaret

Thank you all so much for coming into Elmside to perform for us. The morning was actually very moving for many staff members here to see some Residents leave their rooms to come and listen to you, and comment on how much they enjoyed the morning. I really believe this needs to happen more in our care homes.

We received many comments from the Residents about the morning….

 “what a wonderful calming way to spend the morning”

 “I’ve had a wonderful morning”

 “really enjoyed this morning”

“It was lovely to hear classical music performed so well”

“how very kind of you all to come and play just for us”

These are a few of the comments I received during the day, but the most said comment Margaret was….

 “WHEN ARE YOU ALL COMING BACK” !!!!!!!!!

 So once again on behalf of the Residents  we all Thank You.

Here at Elmside we wish you all a very merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Dates for 2014: Sunday 14 – Wednesday 17 September                         …the course meets for dinner on the first evening, and finishes after tea on the last day.

For full details, including course fees, and to enrol, contact:       Benslow Music, Benslow Lane, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, SG4 9RB       Tel: 01462 459446;  email: info@benslowmusic.org