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Opera Workshops a High Note for Belong Residents

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The opera has come to the state-of-the-art Belong Morris Feinmann care village in Didsbury, Manchester, with residents taking part in interactive performances delivered by students of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) with SoundUp Arts, a community interest company which aims to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia through music.

Residents at the specialist dementia care village have been enjoying weekly instalments of the RNCM’s current production of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus involving multisensory audience participation, such as sing-alongs, dressing up, dancing and handling props and instruments.

Commenting on the impact of the sessions on residents, Angela Luckett, Experience Coordinator at Belong Morris Feinmann, said: “You could see it on everyone’s faces. It was joyous to see people with a wide range of care needs, some of whom are living with dementia and might not typically engage with other activities, clapping their hands, tapping their feet and wanting to get up and dance. We’re lucky to have the RNCM students from SoundUp working with us. They are just fabulous.

Belong Morris Feinmann resident Harold Franks added: “It has given me great pleasure to have attended the concerts given by the students of the RNCM, who have demonstrated vocal and instrumental skills in the most attractive way. They brought us joy, and we hope that this will be repeated in the near future all under the delightful direction of Rachel Speirs.

Co-Director of SoundUp and former RNCM student, Rachel Speirs, who has also worked as a Dementia Group Leader for Together Dementia Support and is passionate about the effects on wellbeing and quality of life that music, creativity, and the arts can have for people living with dementia, added: “Our partnership with Belong Morris Feinmann goes back to before the coronavirus pandemic, and we wanted to bring the current opera by the RNCM to the village now that we are able to again. The response has been amazing. Each session has been different, and people have responded to different aspects, but everyone has got something out of it. The students have also enjoyed sharing their vocation with people who are clearly love the music. It has reminded me why I became an opera singer.”

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