Project Assistant Matilda on experiencing the effect of music on the wards as part of our health & wellbeing tour of care settings across Bristol…
Having been brutally handed down the unmusical, tone deaf gene from the male side of my family I have always been aware of music, but solely as a foreign object intermittently drifting out of radios and dingy clubs. I’m the type of person who has to look at other people clapping to the beat to join in, the type of person who has had various members of my family, including myself, be told, that we can stay in the choir, just as long as we stand at the back and mime. Definitely mime.
It is only really as I stand in the wards and hospital corridors, listening to the many musical tunes drifting through the hallway, I realise that it doesn’t matter if I’m musical or not, it is then that I realise the true power music really holds.
Since joining Superact in September I have been to both the Fresh Arts festival at Southmead and the monthly Health and Wellbeing tour at various hospitals around Bristol. I’ve been mesmerised by the enchanting sound and wonderful harp playing of Alice Phelps, I’ve been captivated by the duo of Belshazzar’s Feast accordion and violin performing, and Flight Flute have been my Pied Pipers around the wards.
People in these environments are removed from normal day-to-day activities – staff work long hours in clinical environments, visitors spend time in an alien place outside their familiar surroundings, patients may be bed-bound, confused or long-term unwell.
Catering for a range of audiences over the week long Health and Wellbeing tour each month, the musicians adapt to each setting perfectly. From playing to bed-ridden elderly patients in Southmead to enchanting young terminally ill children at the Bristol Children’s Hospital, nothing is a challenge for them. Special requests were welcomed and asking patients if they minded the music was almost taken as rude! We spent one ward singing Scottish Highland songs, and another being begged to perform numbers from ‘Frozen’! One walking into what could have been easily mistaken for an everyday music lesson at a school, each child sat on the corner of their seats learning about the wonders of the flute and how different things affect the sound – way over my head.
What struck me was that, whatever age, health or person who had the chance to listen to the music, it affected them. Don’t be fooled in thinking the music benefited just patients and family. There was a rhythm in everyone’s step, the doctors, the nurses, visitors, the patients that were up and about, the patients leaving the hospital and even mine – although probably slightly of beat! Peaking faces appeared around every corner and smiles were the uniform! The family and friends visiting sighed light relief from the environment they were in and the patients sat up and tapped away with broad smiles and bright eyes. For those few minutes, the music gave them an escape.
Music and art provide a spark which brightens these people’s days.