Jewish Care residents enjoy musical immersion by Wigmore Hall

09 Jan 2019

Music filled Jewish Care’s Vi & John Rubens House in Ilford as residents and their relatives, together with staff and volunteers enjoyed the sounds of roaming musicians, relaxed concerts and singing workshops on Sunday afternoon. The musical takeover marked the start of a two-year residency with Wigmore Hall’s Music for Life programme.

Music for Life brings together residents, professional musicians and care staff through interactive music making. The project focuses on meaningful connection, empathy and self-expression, empowering individuals to come together through music. The specially trained musicians work alongside residents and their carer’s, drawing out individuals and enhancing their communication. 

Helen Preddy, Jewish Care’s Creative Arts Development Coordinator, said, “Jewish Care are delighted to be working closely together with the musicians at Wigmore Hall, residents and their relatives at Vi & John Rubens House. The musical takeover was a great way to celebrate the start of the residency.

“We look forward to building partnerships with the specialists and musicians, sharing expertise so that together, we can create a meaningful, stimulating programme that makes the most of the talent, skills and interests of everyone involved through music.

The aim is to enhance quality of life – by increasing self-esteem and sense of self, as well as interaction with others. Whether it is through singing or music, the facilitator takes their direction from the residents, focusing on their strengths and often giving carers, volunteers and relatives a different perspective on the people they care for or family member.”

“For those people living in our home with advanced dementia, increasingly, research shows that music memory is one of the first parts of the brain to form in utero and incredibly it is rarely degraded by dementia. Familiar words and tunes often stay and music continues to stimulate and have tremendous therapeutic impact.” 

The next stage of the residency has already begun with weekly visits by a roaming resident musician, clarinettist Luke Newby. He is working responsively with staff and residents, moving through lounges and visiting residents in their rooms. The aim is to give everyone the opportunity to connect through music, across the home. 

The Vi & John Rubens House Community Choir is also being formed in early 2019, with residents, relatives, staff and volunteers, meeting weekly to participate in a singing group. A monthly Sunday session means that those who are unable to attend midweek have the opportunity to be involved, creating stronger community links.

Wigmore Hall’s Learning Director, Daisy Swift, said, “We are incredibly excited to be embarking on this new adventure with Vi & John Rubens House as part of our ongoing partnership with Jewish Care. Wigmore Hall is passionate about the impact music can have on all of our lives, and our Music for Life programme truly embodies the values which lie at the heart of our work: creativity, collaboration and equality.

Founded by Linda Rose in 1993 and led by Wigmore Hall since 2009, Music for Life brings people living with dementia together with carers, families, friends and musicians to create meaningful connections through music. 

Daisy continues, “We are thrilled to be taking this decade of learning and adopting our practice to enable people throughout the home to take part in creative music making. To be able to respond to the specific needs and aims of Vi and John Rubens House and co-create a programme of music-making means that together we can make music an embedded and vital part of the life of the home and its staff, residents and families.” 

Melanie Farenden, daughter of resident, Gloria Jaffe, came along for the afternoon session with her daughter, Laura. Melanie said; “My mum doesn’t usually join in, but she loved the double bass, playing the tambourine and singing today when the musicians were here. I don’t think we’ve ever heard her sing in our lives. She’s had a really lovely afternoon. It’s been brilliant for everyone, residents, relatives, volunteers and staff too.”

Alan Shaw, who enjoyed attending the singalongs and classical concert together with his wife Josie, also a resident, said, “We both love music and dancing. We’ve always enjoyed listening to music at home so we definitely want the Wigmore Hall musicians to come back.

Home Manager, Momar Camarra added, “It was fantastic to see and hear everyone joining in, making musical requests, playing the musical instruments and participating with their voices, to create an incredible atmosphere in the home. We know that music has a profound effect on the well being of older people and the residency will bring ongoing opportunities for our residents to continue to enjoy music in many forms. We can already see what a positive effect it has on everyone.”