An outdoor music initiative has hit the right note at Didsbury care village, Belong Morris Feinmann, with residents delighting in a live garden performance from the Northern Chamber Orchestra (NCO), as part of a project to improve the lives of those with dementia through music.

The sun was shining as a socially-distanced crowd of residents and care workers gathered in the garden and on balconies to hear the wind quartet play a range of much-loved pieces, from Celine Dion’s titanic classic ‘My Heart Will Go On’ to the James Bond Theme. And when the sounds of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ filled the air, everyone was quick to their feet.

Speaking of this, resident Shirley Kingsley, said: “It was a truly wonderful afternoon, with smiles all around. Music has been a big part of all of our lives here at Belong, and so seeing such an acclaimed orchestra perform live, right on our doorstep, has been a real treat, as well as bringing back fond memories for many.”

The event was part of NCO’s wider ‘Mind Music’ initiative, which explores the effects of live music on people living with dementia, with benefits including reminiscence, improved cognitive function and greater communication between loved ones. Sponsored by local technology firm, CDL, the project has funded therapy-based, interactive sessions in care homes, but with lockdown putting these activities on hold, the orchestra’s musicians decided to take their performances outside.

General Manager at the Northern Orchestra Chamber, Charlie Rowley, commented: “NCO believes in the power of music to change lives and with many care home residents isolated from their loved ones during lockdown, we hope our performances bring them some joy at this difficult time.

Whilst we love playing in our grand concert halls, there’s something equally magical about performing to people in their own back gardens and the feedback has been fantastic. Thank you to CDL for their support and to Belong for letting us through their garden gate!”

Adding to this, Frank Robinson, CDL’s director of human resources, said: “CDL has worked alongside NCO for the past four years, and we are delighted that we can continue to support them in engaging community projects, albeit in a different format. These performances mean such a lot to everyone involved, including many of our team members whose relatives live in the care homes visited, so it’s great to hear that they’ve had such a positive impact at Belong.”

The NCO’s isolation-adapted tour of North West care homes will continue over the coming weeks.