Music therapy sessions that help people connect, communicate and engage, have struck the right chord with residents at Belong Morris Feinmann care village, who have been creating their own concerts as part of a flourishing relationship with the UK’s largest music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins.
Classical cellist and student music therapist, Awen Blandford, is currently working with Belong’s Didsbury customers – many of whom are living with dementia – to translate their personal experiences, memories and observations of the world through the power of music.
By working with them one-to-one and in small groups, the Royal Northern College of Music postgraduate encourages residents to contribute however they please, then closely listens to their movement, breathing and vocal sounds to help build and produce performances with them.
Angela Luckett, cultural and religious coordinator at Belong Morris Feinmann, provides more detail: “It’s very much about our residents and apartment tenants leading the sessions and Awen has been fantastic supporting them. Recently, we performed a cross between Frank Sinatra and a Christmas carol – it was certainly a curious mix and the key is that it was shaped by customers, and that’s what’s important.”
Belong enlisted Nordoff Robbins as part of their ethos of promoting the wellbeing of customers through meaningful occupation in line with their interests. The not-for-profit dementia specialist found the charity to also share their approach to using music and the arts to unlock memories, reduce isolation and help people regain their sense of identity, no matter what their stage of dementia.
Speaking of her experience, Awen Blandford said: “I’m thrilled to be on placement as a trainee Nordoff Robbins music therapist with Belong Morris Feinmann. What’s lovely is connecting with individuals whatever their abilities: whether it be using facial expressions or physical movements to inspire a musical conversation.
“Music is an alternative form of communication, a shared experience, a mood booster, and it can engage people where words alone often can’t. I’m looking forward to developing my skills and musically meeting more of the wonderful residents here.’
Angela Luckett added: “The impact on our customers has been remarkable. The music has provided stimulating activity and the opportunity to socialise, reminisce and share happy emotions. It has a gentle lure that brings you in – you just can’t help it. Watching the sessions is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
The collaboration follows a number of musical delights Belong has promoted for its customers. Past endeavours include opera workshops, visits from local choirs, and performances from the renowned Northern Chamber Orchestra and Manchester’s Chetham’s School of Music.