Recorded as part of a project led by musicians’ development charity Live Music Now, the eleven tracks were arranged and produced by musicians Peter McCauley and Owen Denvir, who worked with older people at Ballyowen Day Centre and Edgecumbe Assessment & Therapy Unit. Over six months, the older participants shared their memories and sang favourites such as Lili Marlene, The Mountains of Mourne, Daisy Daisy, My Aunt Jane and I’ll tell me Ma. The result is a unique set of arrangements, featuring guitar, piano, viola and ukulele, bringing together voices from across the city in a blend of nostalgia and Belfast wit. The project was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast Health & Social Care Trust and the Utley Foundation. Watch a short film featuring participants at Edgecumbe:
Alice Lewis, Director of the Northern Irish branch of Live Music Now, said, ‘This album captures not just the actual voices of older people in Belfast, but their sense of humour and sheer joy in remembering and sharing songs. We hear a lot of laughter and jokes as well as some really poignant moments. Pete and Owen have created a beautiful and evocative sound world which sensitively showcases the talent of the participants and captures the spirit of Live Music Now, which is all about making life better through music.’
Many of the participants are living with dementia and expressed how vital music is to help them retain memories and to lift their mood. There is growing evidence showing the impact of live music on people with dementia: it helps manage symptoms, has a calming effect, promotes social interaction and can reduce the need for medication.
Paula McHugh, Arts in Health Manager for Belfast Trust said ‘Voices of Belfast is a brilliant example of how people can ‘live well’ with dementia, continue to make a unique creative contribution to society and feel empowered in relation to their own wellbeing. ‘
Lorraine Calderwood, Community Development Officer at the Arts Council, commented, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support this impressive project which brought professional musicians together with older people to improve their lives through the power of music. We know that the arts can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as helping to relieve stress, worries and pain. The Arts and Older People’s Programme creates opportunities for our older people to take part in the arts by funding a range of projects across the region. The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people to find a voice and express the issues which affect them on a day-to-day basis, adding to their sense of well-being as-well as promoting positive physical and mental health.”