BBC Concert Orchestra is joining forces with five of the Alzheimer’s Society’s regional ‘Singing for the Brain’ groups in music-making aimed to engage with people dealing with the impact of dementia.
Singing for the Brain has developed within the Alzheimer’s Society at grassroots level over the last 10 years. It is a nationwide singing programme providing people living with dementia and their carers a chance to express themselves and socialise with other people in the same situation.
The workshops are usually sung ‘a capella’ (without accompaniment), but between March and June, members of the BBC Concert Orchestra will join groups in Bristol, Hemel Hempstead, Telford, Watford and St Albans to provide live instrumental accompaniment, adding an extra performance element to the sessions.
Four players from the orchestra will join each group, and over three separate visits will use their instrumental skills to enhance the warm-up and relaxation exercises, rhythmic and interactive games, and sing-alongs to add to the musically enriching and stimulating experience.
BBC Concert Orchestra performs a wide range of repertoire from classical to modern, and in its role as house band for the long-running and much-loved BBC Radio 2 show Friday Night Is Music Night since 1952, the orchestra is a well-known champion of British Light Music. A style which was particularly popular when many of those living with dementia today were growing up, it is hoped this connection will trigger memories as well as provide a fun musical experience.
Laura Metcalfe, BBC Concert Orchestra’s Learning Producer, thinks the workshops are crucial to the orchestra’s engagement with the older community: “We believe it is important to take music to the older members of the community and include them in our learning activities as much as young people, so we’re delighted that we will be working closely with those living with dementia and their carers in the five chosen regional areas.”
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, says: “Many people with dementia and their carers tell us that ‘Singing for the Brain’ is the highlight of their week and the attendance of professional musicians is bound to make their experience even more enjoyable. Even when many memories are hard to retrieve, music can sometimes still be recalled – if only for a short while. The groups help people with dementia communicate, improving their mood and leaving them feeling good about themselves.”