LMN is delighted to be featured in a BBC Lifeline appeal, which will air on BBC 1 on Sunday 28th July at 4.20pm. The film, which highlights LMN's work with older people, is presented by the actor and writer Simon Callow.
The film features Daire Halpin, a singer and mentor on the LMN scheme. Approaching the end of her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2008, she was very keen to find opportunities to perform. LMN was able to provide her with paid performance opportunities, training and support in professional development at the start of her career.
"LMN was really important for my development as a musician. And, as I have gained valuable experience, the emphasis has shifted towards the immediate benefits I can see at an LMN concert" said Daire. "Older people, and particularly those living with dementia, are not hesitant about expressing their opinions and so you learn to be sensitive to an audience, adapting your programme to suit their needs and providing them with a positive and uplifting experience".
Learning to communicate with an audience is an essential part of becoming a musician. "Working with people whose circumstances restrict or deny their access to live music gives musicians invaluable opportunities to develop their skills whilst benefitting the wider community and having a profound impact on the lives of individuals" said Nina Swann, LMN Musicians' Development Director.
Legendary violinist and founder of LMN, Yehudi Menuhin would have been proud of the projects currently undertaken by the charity which mainly concentrate on working with older people, as well as adults and children with special needs. He had first-hand experience of how music can reach out to people in distressed circumstances.
Daire's own personal experiences of her time with LMN demonstrate music's great ability to enhance wellbeing – from stroke victims getting to their feet to dance, to people with extremely limited speech singing all the words at the top of their voices. "Sometimes it's the people who you think are getting nothing out of it that it means the most to" said Daire. "One particularly frail lady was sitting beside a lively group and while they sang heartily throughout, she was silent, not even making eye contact with me. As I was saying goodbye she reached out her hands and pulled me towards her. She started to cry and whispered in my ear 'thank you so much, you have given me such joy'. Her reaction blew me away."
A recent LMN project at Cheverton Lodge Care Home in London highlighted, over the duration of 9 concerts, the change in residents' wellbeing. As they developed relationships with the musicians, the residents began looking forward to the sessions and were able to request music from week to week and invite friends and family along too. "One lady, Margaret was new to the home and very shy. After a few weeks, she started to dress-up for the concerts, applying lipstick and jewellery" said Daire.
One care home resident, Doug, had been a cornet player and had a real gift for improvisation. "He would scat along in our jazzy numbers and show other residents how to use percussion. One week before we began we asked if everyone knew why we were there and someone said 'for the music'. 'No' said Doug, 'for proper music'. He loved the wide variety and was just as thrilled to listen to songs he didn't know as those he did" said Daire.
It is hard going for musicians who are often young and not used to being in unsettling environments. "It's difficult to see anyone suffering, particularly when they are confused or distressed and you know it's degenerative" said Daire. "It's our privilege to bring them some respite from their suffering no matter how brief. For some, it's only a moment – some calm or a flash of recognition. Others almost come back to their old selves for the whole duration of a concert".
LMN musicians are trained to fully communicate with their audience, wandering through them, holding people's hands and singing directly to them. This brings immense joy and happiness. "For some people it triggers memories – when they fell in love, who they were with or when they heard it. For others it allows them to speak – finding words can be difficult and here they are singing along, it's quite thrilling to watch. Some respond to rhythm – it helps them to move their bodies and enjoy themselves. Others respond to sound – sound can be healing and they can just listen and find stillness in the music" said Daire.
LMN is launching a Just Giving appeal to coincide with the BBC Lifeline appeal, to support more musicians like Daire. If you would like to donate, please visit: www.justgiving.com/livemusicnow. Alternatively, cheques can be sent to Live Music Now, Music Base, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG made payable to Live Music Now.
LMN has recently been awarded an Arts Council England Catalyst Grant, which enables us to match any new donations received between January 2012 and March 2015.