We have run two projects in partnership with Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation. This aim of these projects was to provide access to high quality participative music making for older people who are isolated from mainstream cultural access.
2015 – Instant Choir
In autumn 2015 we developed some of the ideas and practice which stemmed from our 2014 Falkirk Cabaret (see below for details). Instant Choir took place in Edinburgh’s Jubilee House care home and consisted of 6 weekly singing sessions. The final session was a celebratory run-through of all 7 songs we’d learned, with friends and family in attendance. The 12 residents who took part were aged from 70 to 101, and had varying levels of dementia and frailty.
The song choices included familiar songs (Scots songs, songs from musicals & films) alongside less well known material (including songs made popular by Nina Simone, Bob Marley and The Platters). We also tackled song suggestions which came out of conversations over cups of tea after the sessions, including the favourite song of one resident, “Rock Island Line”, complete with washboard accompaniment and a joint effort retelling the spoken introductory story at the beginning of the song, to great amusement for all! We sung it so fast that one chorister joked that she almost lost her teeth!
Two elements we developed in this project were the inclusion of ‘singing buddies’ and a focus on working with the home’s Activity Coordinator to develop her own work leading singing activities. Our 5 volunteer singing buddies were members of Love Music Community Choir, who sang with the residents each week, helping to form our Instant Choir. The Activity Coordinator said this was very beneficial as the added volume and support encouraged the residents to sing out. The focus on learning for the Activity Coordinator was to create a longer-lasting impact on the home, and she noted several teaching techniques which she will incorporate into her future practice. This element of the project was flexible, to build on her existing strengths and to suit her style of learning.
Inevitably, new friendships were forged over the course of the project, and we hope to continue singing, smiling and laughing with our new friends in the future.
2014 – Falkirk Cabaret
Our 2014 Luminate project was Falkirk Cabaret, with partners Falkirk Community Trust. For many who took part, the project provided a first experience of singing in a choir setting.
The format was simple and celebratory: 6 informal singing workshops over a 6-week period culminating in a large massed-choir sharing event. We balanced repertoire, introducing lesser-known songs requiring learning of words and melodies as well as some better known songs, and worked with 2 Falkirk care homes and an over 50s singing group, along with their staff and carers.
Prior to the final event we brought 51 members of 2 existing community choirs together for a one-off workshop to learn the songs we’d been exploring with the care groups. This brought a lot of energy and a much broader sense of community to the day, making it easy for core participants to contribute and feel supported vocally. The final sharing event consisted of core participants, carers, family, friends and community choir members singing together, accompanied by a professional 3-piece jazz band. There was a lot of laughter and fun, and the atmosphere and participation was extremely positive. The solo contributions from individuals from the care groups were incredibly special.
Photographs above are by Drew Farrell