At Home is an integral part of the wider Classically Yours programme developed in partnership with Orchestras Live, Manchester Camerata and Sinfonia Viva which is taking place across the East Riding until March 2018, reaching a wide range of people and places with little access to live orchestral music experiences. At Home follows on from visits to care homes in Withernsea and Beverley undertaken in November 2016 and February 2017 by musicians from Manchester Camerata and composer Richard Taylor, and provides an opportunity to increase the number and frequency of visits to care homes and present two orchestral concerts tailored to the needs of older people. In addition, basic training for care home staff in facilitating participatory music making will take place in each setting.
The power of music to unlock memories and kick-start the grey matter is an increasingly key feature of care, particularly for those with dementia. A growing base of academic research shows that music can improve quality of life, enhance relationships with others, and may reduce the use of medication. A key feature of this project will be giving participants the chance to make musical choices, they are given back a sense of control that is often lost when living in care home settings.
Manchester Camerata has a strong track record of delivering music-making sessions with older people, and people living with dementia. Their older people’s programme began over 10 years ago through a collaboration with Age Friendly Manchester, in which Camerata musicians wrote new musical compositions and songs with people living in care homes. Since 2012, their ‘Music in Mind’ music therapy-based programme for people living with dementia has run in care homes, community centres and hospitals across the North West. The programme is backed by research and evaluation in partnership with the University of Manchester and has highlighted the positive impacts that music can have on quality of life: increased mood, communication, and relationships, as well as decreased agitation. These outcomes have led to some people with dementia stopping taking medication and accessing other health services. The programme continues this year in Greater Manchester and is part of a PhD studentship with the University of Manchester, looking at creating a multi-sensory music assessment tool to measure the ‘in the moment’ impacts of Music in Mind.
The ‘in the moment’ impacts of music-making were apparent in the first phase of ‘Classically Yours’. The nature of the sessions enables each participant to get involved, no matter how small their contribution is. By giving participants the chance to make musical choices, they are given back a sense of control that is often lost when living in care home settings. The process of musical composition utilised by the Camerata musicians gives everyone the chance to decide on the lyrics of the song or write the melody, for example, and thus the sense of empowerment felt by the participants is increased. Those with limited mobility or verbal skills can take part by playing a range of percussion instruments and changing the musical soundscape which accompanies the newly-composed songs.
The opportunity to experience live music should not be underestimated for older people. Many residents of care homes have previously played instruments or enjoyed attending concerts, and wish that they could continue to do so. Manchester Camerata and Orchestra’s Live believe it is important to bring classical music into the homes of people who are no longer able to attend concerts regularly because of their circumstances. The collective act of enjoying music together creates a sense of shared experience that can prompt conversation and interaction that many older people may miss. The pleasure derived from listening to live music are not limited to the music but can include the sense of community felt at concerts, the closeness that the audience gets to the performer, and the sense of occasion that the concert represents.
The NEF Five Ways to Wellbeing framework will be used as part of the evaluation process.