Emily Wright & the Royals on their Health & Wellbeing tour: ‘like a bright bunch of flowers’
An hour spent at Southmead hospital with old time jazz-swing trio Emily Wright and the Royals, and I can see what an impact the music has on patients, staff and the atmosphere as a whole. People are drawn to the music, they can’t help but smile, there’s a swing in watchers’ hips and countless heartfelt thank-yous from passers-by.
The band have come to entertain on the wards as part of their week-long Health & Wellbeing tour run by Superact. On Monday they performed in the Sanctuary space at the hospital, playing for visitors, healthcare staff and patients wheeled down for the occasion. There was a rousing singalong, with many of the audience enchanted by Emily’s soothing vocals and remembering the popular swing tunes from the 1930s and ‘40s that the band covers such as the Girl from Ipanema and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree. One patient described the performance as “such a lovely unexpected surprise – like being given a bright bunch of flowers!” At a session for people living with dementia earlier in the day the songs had been particularly well-received, with many taken on a nostalgic and sometimes emotional trip down memory lane; a request for the Lambeth Walk by one resident drew a question mark from Emily and so the participants took over and sang the song themselves, accompanied in style by the ever-competent Royals. The Music & Memories sessions, delivered in partnership with Reminiscence Learning, are often profoundly moving for all involved, and this was no exception.
At Southmead, Emily and band played first in the Medical Day Care Centre which caters for those in need of slow delivery treatment such as dialysis and chemotherapy. The swinging sounds of gypsy-jazz guitar, soaring fiddle and Emily’s beautiful clear voice filled the void of the room which was otherwise bare and clinical. One gentleman sat to watch the violin playing with close attention; a visitor asked if she could take photos; staff beamed and thanked the musicians for ‘transporting them away from everything’.
Next was to the Neurological ward, where the band set up to play for the ‘pods’ of individual rooms. They immediately sparked interest from a patient who had previously been a jazz singer in the South West and hailed them with loud applause from down the corridor. Every person the musicians came in to contact with seemed to have some connection to the music, their own story to tell in relation to it, or their own perspective on what the performance evoked. Ruth and Pip who manage the scheme at Southmead say that so far it has been a resounding success and plans are afoot to expand the programme.
Emily Wright and the Royals will be working hard for the wellbeing of those in healthcare settings for the rest of the week, visiting further wards at Southmead, running another Music & Memories session at the Salvation Army Community hall in Easton and culminating in a day at the Children’s hospital on Friday. If you happen to be nearby you can catch them on:
Weds 18th Feb at Southmead hospital, ward performances from 1-4pm
Fri 20th Feb at BristolRoyalHospital for Children, ward performances from 10am-4pm
You can see videos by Neighbourly.com of our Music & Memories sessions here.
Check out Emily Wright and the Royals’ music here.
The Health & Wellbeing tour is a monthly project run by Superact - check back for details of March’s line-up!