Live Music Now has been working in hospices in Somerset and the West Midlands since 2018, in a project inspired by two music loving families who wanted to bring the joy and comfort of music to people at this most difficult time in their lives.
LMN musician Sadie Fleming
A residency at St Margaret’s Hospice in Yeovil was set up in memory of Elizabeth Parker thanks to the generous donations of her friends and family. Elizabeth was looked after at the hospice, and visited by LMN musicians during her time there.
Since the project started, LMN musicians have visited the St Margaret’s Hospice monthly, performing in the residents’ lounge and on the wards. The visits provided more than just distraction from pain or anxiety; they brought moments of real joy, tapping into memories and bringing often emotional responses. Musician Sadie Fleming described one such moment, when playing to a man being cared for at the hospice, and his wife:
“I asked what kind of music they liked, and they both said songs from the 60s, so I suggested a Bob Dylan song – when I started, the lady burst into tears – after a little hesitation I got through the song. It turned out to be ‘their song’, which I had picked totally at random. It was quite emotional all round, but they were so incredibly happy to have heard it, and were holding hands and beaming at each other through teary eyes by the end. It was a very special moment, which I won’t forget for a long time.”
One of the hospice staff also noticed the impact on residents, saying that “Music is a very important adjunct to the care that the patients receive. It helps even those who cannot communicate express their feelings. One patient was transformed and became animated. He continued to tap out a tune on the table after the music had stopped.”
A family member of one of the patients said “Every time the musicians came in and did their thing, frowns turned to smiles, dry eyes became tear-filled, feet and fingers started to tap along and the general mood in the room was lifted so much. Days in a hospice are very long and these visits are so welcome and appreciated.”
Our musicians also visited St Giles Hospice in Litchfield, in memory of Richard Ashford-Martin. This was made possible thanks to the fundraising efforts of Richard’s friends and family, plus grants from The Community Foundation for Staffordshire and the Swinfen Broun Charitable Trust. Richard was very passionate about music and was looked after at the Hospice.
A total of 7 visits took place between October 2018 and November 2019. Each one involved musicians delivering an interactive concert for those attending the hospice day centre, followed by visits to rooms on the wards.
“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”
– Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement
The sessions at St Giles encouraged communication and engagement – with staff, the musicians and fellow patients. The approach of the musicians provided a safe space where people felt comfortable to interact and participate, with everybody involved moved by the sharing of musical memories:
“A few people were teary during certain songs. I managed to have deep conversations with some individuals about their musical memories.” – LMN musician
“The atmosphere appeared more calm and relaxed in general. It was very beneficial to one particular patient as she used to be in the choir and thoroughly enjoyed singing along to the music remembering her childhood.” – Hospice staff
“Harp wasn’t my kind of music and I really didn’t know what to expect, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it but she was just incredible. It was beautiful and so moving we were all in tears. We saw all the ladies with dementia, who had been in their own world before she started playing, come alive when the music started. It was just wonderful to watch. It makes such a difference.” – Patient’s family member
Live Music Now South West is currently fundraising to continue the residency at St Margaret’s Hospice in Yeovil, and to expand it to include its sister hospice in Taunton. Donations from local trusts and foundations are enabling us to provide a further four concerts, and we are delighted to have been selected for the Tesco Bags of Help scheme in Yeovil, which will run in January – February 2020 and through which we will raise between £500 and £2000.