LMN Northern Ireland singer/songwriter Louis McTeggart recently released a single inspired by his work with Live Music Now and people living with dementia and cognitive impairment. Alice Lewis, Branch Director of LMN’s NI branch, speaks with him about the new release and his experience of working with Live Music Now.
Louis, you’ve just released a single, ‘I Used to Dance’. Tell us a bit about your new single and the reaction it has been getting.
I wrote the song after watching the viral video of Marta Gonzalez in late 2020, an ex-ballerina living with cognitive impairment who was filmed dancing along to Swan Lake in a care home in Spain in 2019. I was so moved by the video that I was brought to tears and wrote the bulk of the song in about 10 minutes. During lockdown, the video was a real beacon of hope. I recorded the song with the amazing producer Peter Doherty and the video was produced by Gavin Kelly. The reaction the song and the video has been getting has been amazing, it seems to have really touched people.
You’ve said the single was partly inspired by your work with Live Music Now in Northern Ireland. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I think the video of Marta connected with me so much because of the work I have done with Live Music Now. I’ve seen first hand how live music can transform someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. You can really see the true personality come out of someone when they hear music from their younger days and doing this work has given me great insight into older people and the lives they’ve lived, I’ve learned it’s important to remember that everyone on a care home is a unique person who has lived a full life. I have seen how live music can bring out amazing creativeness too, many times residents I play to will start singing along, dancing or even sing a song on their own, one recent concert I did I had four or five guest singers get up and give us a tune! It can also create a great sense of community. I’ve seen rooms of isolated residents start to talk to and dance with each other when the music starts.
You were one of the first Live Music Now musicians to pilot remote music-making with older people via zoom in early 2021 at the height of lockdown. Could you tell us about that experience?
It was different and a bit difficult at the start. I had done online/livestreamed gigs before but never a zoom one where I was interacting directly with other people. There were technical issues – lagging, bad internet, etc – but once we got going it was a great project.
I worked directly with two residents, William and Albert, and it was an absolute joy. Albert was a musician himself. LMN project mentor Gary Day set up a tablet for him to play a virtual slide guitar and we had some great jams! I performed some of Albert’s original work with him and sing his lyrics while I played guitar. William had a great time too, he loved telling jokes and singing funny songs. I could tell this project was great for the two men as the lockdown had left them isolated from friends, family and any in person entertainment.
You’ve just started working with two older individuals living with dementia in a Belfast care home* – again via zoom, could you tell us about that?
So far it’s going good. Now that I’ve already done a remote music project there were were very few technical difficulties. In the other project the resident was in a private room with two members of staff whereas this project is taking place in a communal area where there is a lot of other people wandering through. This can raise some problems but also leads to looser, gig-like atmosphere where other people are sitting in and making requests. There was some difficulty with driving the actual gig as in I usually let the residents lead it with requests but in the more communal environment, that’s been quite difficult to do to. After some advice from project mentor Gary I now feel more comfortable leading it myself.
What are your plans for 2022?
I’m hopefully going to release another single and work towards completing an album. I’d like to do more work with Live Music Now, hopefully this time in a live setting. The remote concerts are good but I miss the live experience. In September I’m planning to go back to university to study psychology.
Finally how can we hear or buy the new single??
It’s available to download on all major platforms through the link below:
* Supported by the Arts & Older People Programme