A project which brings high-quality live music and dance to care homes across the UK will celebrate its 1000th performance on Tuesday by delivering a musical treat for people with learning and physical disabilities.
Opera singers Caroline Kennedy and Rachel Maby will be performing a special summer concert on What-To-Do.co.uk, an online activities platform created by Community Integrated Care. Established during the pandemic to prevent loneliness and isolation for the 3000 people supported by the charity across England and Scotland, What To Do has provided 25,000 hours of inclusive activity and has recently been nominated for a Charity Times Award for Best Use of Technology.
The performance is being delivered by, Connecting Stars which was also set up during the lockdown and has brought performances to residents in care homes across the UK. The performances are specially tailored for the individuals in the audience, who are invited to interact with the musicians and dancers.
The ‘Summer Lovin’’ event follows a concert in July on the same platform by Constella which celebrated the Jubilee with an enthralling mix of classic British pop songs.
The Connecting Stars project was developed by Constella OperaBallet in response to the pandemic and continues to bring high-quality performances to elderly and disabled people, many of whom are still isolated.
Connecting Stars was the brainchild of Constella’s Artistic Director, Leo Geyer, who came up with the idea after talking to his own grandmother and playing his bassoon for her via Zoom, to cheer her up during the first weeks of the pandemic.
Leo said: “Although this was our response to the exceptional situation at the time, it has become apparent that this is a successful model for the future. Virtual technology makes it possible to bring brilliant musicians and dancers to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to benefit from such top-quality performances.
“As well as watching a performance which has been specially tailored for the audience, the care home residents have the opportunity to chat to our artists and make requests, as well as to join in with clapping, singing and even dancing.”
Sam Turner, Community Integrated Care’s Digital Inclusion Manager, said: “Connecting Stars is a fantastic project which really chimes with Community Integrated Care’s values. The online concerts provide unforgettable experiences which are accessible to everyone. We can’t wait to follow on the Jubilee special event with this summer show.”
Connecting Stars has expanded from care homes for the elderly to include disabled people, and others who are isolated due to health conditions. Performances have reached people across the UK from Belfast to Brighton.
Performances have included excerpts from Swan Lake performed by dancer Alice Oakley-Jones, a violin recital by Philippa Mo, and tunes from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ played by accordionist Ilona Suomalainen.
Care home staff have commented on the talented performers, the interaction with the audience, and the benefits the performances bring to the wellbeing of residents. One resident described a performance as a ‘burst of sunshine’.
Sherrie Highley at Lee Mount Care Home said:
“We have had some really good performances and I can’t quite believe how much variety they have to offer. It is a fantastic idea and really enriching for our residents. To book a performer in can be expensive, meaning our residents may have to miss out on other events or possible activities, but with Constella, they have the chance to experience live performances regularly. Music or performing arts are so beneficial to the mental health of elderly people, so honestly, we couldn’t be more thankful for our experiences so far.”
Connecting Stars performances are currently free, thanks to funding from Arts Council England, and can be booked via Constella’s website. To continue providing free performances, the company has launched a donations campaign.
The 1000th performance will have a musicals theme, including songs from famous stage productions from ‘Carousel’ to ‘Grease’.