Singing is good for the soul. Our weekly 'Sing Together' group has been meeting on a Thursday morning for a number of weeks but as we come to the end of the most recent series of session, Pete Ross the session leader has sent us some reflections on the difference the group makes to those taking part which we're happy to share.

For me, music is really special. 

  • It can be liberating for people who may not be able to express themselves for a number of
    reasons, illness, loneliness, depression, for example
  • It can be commemorative, taking people to times and places, even remind folks of smells,
    atmospheres etc.
  • It can remind us about precious times and people we may have shared these with.
  • It can be enjoyable, most parties involve music. When we are happy many people like to
    dance and sing.
  • It can be very useful if people have word finding problems, for example after stroke or if living with a type of dementia.
  • It can help relieve stress, worries, help people to be expressive, and can be a really positive experience.
  • It can give people feelings of self-worth, purpose, and they can often see impact on others.

It is important to take part in music in our own individual way, a person doesn’t have to sing, and can just be there in the room with others.

The beauty is, that it can be repeated if successful, for example, somebody with dementia may enjoy the experience but have no memory of it. It does not mean that it didn’t happen, and we can certainly do it again. Music can also be triggering for above reasons. Certain songs can have more poignant memories. If these are known, then care can be taken to listen to peoples’ needs, wishes, even fears. They might hear a favourite song of somebody they have lost, or even a song that is hated etc.

At MWC, we have seen virtually all of the above during the sessions. In asking people to identify favourite songs and explore why, sometimes a memory has been about the song itself, and other times it has been the impact on lives, moments, memories, feelings. Some of the group said that nobody had ever heard their voices before we began meeting for this group. I think now the group are comfortable to sing in front of one another, and are not fazed or concerned about what other people might think about their singing, inside or outside of the group. Confidence has grown, and with it, fun.

At first, some were not sure about what the group would be about, and I would count myself among them. We tried to keep the purpose of the group open, having light discussions about music, we played vinyl records, and some of the group brought their records in. We asked if anybody had any specific ideas about how they would like the group to be run, and this has been a question that was left open, so that suggestions can be made at any time.

We explored playing and singing in front of each other, and eventually for others as well. We sang a ‘garden gig’, as part of the Platinum Jubilee Garden Party celebrations, and also made 2 visits to Fontburn Court, a sheltered 

accommodation complex near to MWC. We stressed that these were not gigs, there was no pressure to ‘perform’, we were simply singing somewhere else, and allowing others to join in. On both occasions the residents told us they loved having us there singing a few songs. John the manager, told us that his
residents continued singing after the group had left.

As a result of singing with people outside of the group, some of the members were able to identify the impact of certain songs on other people. For example, an Austrian lady listened to us singing ‘Edelweiss’ with tears rolling down her cheeks, but she was quite happy.

We have constantly tried new things. Singing warm ups, singing different songs at the same time, (it can be done), we have tried singing tongue twisters, leading to lots of laughs. The group have begun listening to each other sing, but without being put off from singing their own lines. This is always difficult at first, but then fun, and it created a lot of laughter. Self-consciousness has dropped. A few people have been happy to sing a solo or two, even with others listening, and then heard the applause afterwards.

There has been a core group who have been to the sessions through thick and thin, and we have made it so that people feel comfortable to come and go, depending on whatever else is going on in their own lives.

So far it has been a real privilege to sing along with the group, whom I now consider friends.

Pete Ross