Live Music Now’s Ensemble Hesperi was delivering a 12-week music residency at Park Avenue care home in Bromley, when the Covid19 lockdown was declared. This case study tells the story of how they continued to visit residents online, and the fantastic musical response from the care home staff team as well. It includes lots of tips about how musicians can provide live-streamed interactive music sessions for care homes.
Having already built up an excellent rapport with staff and residents at Park Avenue, we asked whether they might be able to set up a live link via Zoom for remote delivery of the rest of the sessions. On the day before the first online session, we e-mailed a Zoom invitation to the care home contact, so that they could access the live stream well in advance. The care home then set up the meeting on their laptop, and connected their image and sound to one of the large TVs in the resident lounges. We set up our front room, with harpsichord and recorders ready, natural lighting, and with a camera angle suitable for both musicians. We also set up low seats in front of the camera for leading more interactive parts of the session (see pictures). We used our inbuilt laptop webcam and a Zoom Q4n external microphone.
For the first week, in terms of content, we followed the template of previous successful sessions at Park Avenue, using songs and music which are well-known to the residents. Because we had several weeks’ experience at this care home, we knew which songs were favourites. If this had been a one-off session, we would have discussed content with staff beforehand.
One of the main challenges was not being able to move around the room to make sure all residents feel able to engage with the activities, so it’s really important to have a detailed phone-call with the care home contact well in advance of the session. For us, it really helped to send a session plan by e-mail, and to discuss with the care home who will be in the room who can help to lead activities. This person will need to know that during the session they will be asked to actively support the musicians, give out song sheets/percussion, and, most importantly, encourage those residents who may not have a good rapport with the TV screen.
Another challenge, compared to a typical Live Music Now session, is not being able to see the residents’ responses in person. As LMN musicians, we usually rely on this to adapt the session, repeat or develop successful activities. Although it’s not possible to overcome this completely, we managed to keep the rapport with the residents by asking more questions, and using residents’ names. The Park Avenue care home staff have been absolutely fantastic in helping us to communicate personally with the residents, and although, from the laptop, we can only see a few residents, we have been able to judge what works well from staff feedback as we go. This was so successful in our first session, that we were able to be much more confident and flexible in the second session.
Between the first two sessions, Gladys Mercilline, Park Avenue’s Lifestyle Coordinator, wrote some lyrics for a song about the care home which we then wrote some music for. We videoed the song, sent it in advance to the staff, and then taught it to everyone during our second session (video below).
Then, as a surprise, the staff then taught it to 10 of their colleagues, and recorded a version in the care home garden (videos below!)
We were really touched by this and we feel that it is a testament to how important it is to keep bringing music into care homes, especially during this difficult time. Despite some challenges, we feel that the sessions are really benefitting the residents and staff, and that singing, in particular, is a brilliant way of building community spirit. This is something that can quite easily be done remotely, using songs and activities already familiar to residents in care homes. We felt very positive and uplifted after each session, and were surprised how much we felt like we had been in the room, despite not leaving our living room.
Top Tips for Delivery of Online Interactive Sessions
- Be even more prepared than usual
- Contact the care home well in advance with detailed plans
- Get the name of the lead contact who will assist you in the session
- At the start of the session, ask the contact to introduce you to all the residents in the room by name by carrying around the laptop/tablet
- Spend more time than usual on copying activities/warm-ups to build rapport
- During the warm-up, take the opportunity to use your contact to lead a simple activity – e.g. stretches/clapping a simple rhythm
- Singing is a great activity for remote delivery
- When choose repertoire for performance/participation, be aware that you don’t know the quality of their audio output, so choose something rhythmically clear and engaging
- Keep your confidence levels up, even though you won’t have the same kind of responses as you are used to, and might not hear much quite a lot of the time!
- Don’t be afraid to stop, take time, and check that everyone can hear/see properly
- Be very clear about the activity and what you are expecting to do next (when normally you might link items without announcing it)
- Don’t be put off by latency issues – if you ask people to clap/move/use percussion, you will see and hear them later, but stick to your own pulse! Think of residents singing along with your picture, rather than with you
- Enjoy it, and have fun! Make the fact that you’re appearing on their TV/device fun and a talking point
For Care Homes:
- Decide in advance a member of staff who is confident to lead the room in copying what the musicians are doing on screen, and feeding back to them.
- If you haven’t used the technological set-up in this way before, try to do a test run before the session (especially with leads/volume, etc)
- Help the musicians by thinking of songs which residents might enjoy ahead of the session
- Don’t be afraid to ask the musicians to repeat a song/activity or do something differently
- Make sure that any staff present during the session help and encourage residents who find it difficult to engage with the image on the TV/device.
- In general, the more staff who are able to be in the room and actively taking part in activities, the better
More tips here: LMN at Home – Interactive Guidelines for Care Homes
Care Home Feedback
“I think music in any form is always a winner, whether with musicians coming to Park Avenue or now with live stream. It brings people together. And the residents at Park Avenue have really taken a liking to both of you.”
“Both the live stream and residency so far has been very successful. Although we miss having M-J and Tom here in person, I would definitely recommend the live stream when other options are not available to help to life the spirits and bring people together with music.” Gladys Mercilline – Lifestyle Coordinator, Park Avenue Care Home
‘Bringing Music to Life in London’, is supported by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of The City of London Corporation’s charity, Bridge House Estates (1035628) and aims to develop the provision of regular music activities in residential care through empowering care staff to feel more confident in using music in their daily care and by celebrating the creativity of older people.