Our work in seven residential care homes across Worcestershire and in two day care settings for young people with complex needs, began with a very successful pilot project in 2014.
We then devised a programme of interactive singing, playing instruments and gentle movement, all with an element of Early Music.
We chose shanties, which would have been sung on board the sailing ships discovering the New World in Tudor times, courtly songs, such as Greensleeves, and Mediaeval Dance tunes, as well as folk songs including Bobby Shafto, Blow the Wind Southerly and London’s Burning.
These programmes were delivered by six teams consisting of a music therapist, an advisory teacher for children with complex needs, a professional musician, and a former teacher, and Worcestershire’s Poet Laureate.
The essence of our workshops has been involvement and interaction, and our feedback indicated that people appreciated that we were “completely different.” We used a long piece of elastic joined up to make a circle, so people could hold on and move together in the sea shanties for example, and this proved very popular, as participants were part of a group activity, gaining a sense of belonging.
Singing was a major activity, and some residents in care homes with quite advanced dementia were able to sing and remember many of the words they’d learned as children; it was a brief respite from the anxious and confused world in which they now live.
“The residents were totally involved……….. The interaction between the musicians and the residents was exceptional,” wrote one carer.
When asked how the residents had benefited we were told; “The music was uplifting and gave residents an opportunity to reminisce about their childhood years”.
In the setting for young people with complex needs the return to a basic repertoire of songs each week ensured that they became familiar with these songs, and those who are normally non verbal were able to articulate a response, to the great delight of their carers.