Between eight and twelve years old, my mother asked me to attend day-care centres with her during the school holidays, and play for the members of the community present. I remember learning music from the 1920’s & 1930’s plus hymns, old ballads and folk music. A real eclectic mix. My first piano teacher ran a dance band, and so I had been taught to improvise and read chords from the very start.
At 21, I was invited to participate in the Yehudi Menuhin Live Music Now UK programme, which saw me performing to people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, special-needs schools, prisons and youth homes. This work took me all over the UK and I still value these experiences as some of the most formative of my professional career, pianistically and as a performer.
I eventually also connected with Lost Chord UK, a charity devoted to music for dementia and Alzheimer’s. I have lost count of how many concerts in nursing homes I have done now – probably into the 100’s and therefore many 100’s of hours listening to people from all walks of life and backgrounds. You absolutely come to appreciate the direct impact of music on people and how we have a great responsibility to step aside and remain a conduit for music. We have to remove ego and ourselves and find ways of story-telling, and expressing the message of the music first and foremost.
I’ve seen residents in nursing homes speak for the first time in many months, sometimes years, and for the brief moment their brain accesses old memories and they recall a past event, occasion or the words of a song, the impact on their sons or daughters, staff and careers alike, is something equally moving to witness. In many cases they can’t remember their name or if they’ve had breakfast or not.
In 2022, I reconnected with Lost Chord and look forward to working alongside them for many years to come. On Friday 16th September, I had the honour of performing for them in a local fundraiser and a total of £2018.79 was raised towards interactive music sessions in the Rotherham area.
In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Society published a major report into the future of dementia up to 2040. It was estimated that there would be 850,000 people living with dementia in 2015. There are now 900,000 and it is expected to reach 1.6million by 2040 in the UK alone.
This sharp rise is due to accelerated population ageing.https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/policy-and-influencing/dementia-scale-impact-numbers
The report was updated in 2019 and you can read it below. It’s a sobering read.