Live Music Now, the leading UK musicians’ development organisation, has responded to the challenge of the pandemic through new ways of bringing the uplifting power of music to people in care homes, special schools, hospices and others. Its young musicians, who usually bring their warm, participatory style of music to vulnerable people in a range of health and education settings, have had to drastically change their whole approach. The result is an online bank of short videos which are reaching more people than ever. LINK features musicians of all styles, from classical to beat boxing, and for everyone from young children to much older people.
In Northern Ireland, musicians have responded by creating evocative ‘musical journeys’ on film that combine stunning visuals and music performance, developing a completely new way of experiencing the music. The videos will be sent directly to care homes for residents to enjoy and older people at home, who would normally attend day centres, as part of Live Music Now’s Arts and Older People programme, funded by Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funds, the Baring Foundation and the Public Health Agency.
Trad musicians Conor Lamb and Deirdre Galway are producing a themed series for older audiences, inspired by the Irish landscape, starting with Lakes and Rivers. This includes a contemplative, meditative rendition of ‘My Lagan Love’, with footage of the river itself and its wildlife, incorporating birdsong and rippling water. The result is a few minutes of soothing tranquility. Fellow trad musicians Aaron O’Hagan and Grainne Meyer have set their haunting recording of Star of the County Down to a sweeping aerial view of the Mournes (see video at the top of this article).
Alice Lewis, LMN NI Branch Director writes:
“This unprecedented public health crisis has changed the landscape for Live Music Now, both in terms of the freelance musicians whose careers we support, and the vulnerable audiences with whom we work. In Northern Ireland we have found ourselves having to cancel well over a hundred live sessions in care homes, schools, day centres and communities in the space of a few months. Our work is all about connecting people through music with a particular focus on isolated older people. In these disturbing times, we’re aware that many of our older audiences are feeling even more isolated than ever and we wanted to find new ways to reach them.
Our musicians have risen to the challenge of re-inventing the Live Music Now experience into one that can be shared remotely, whether online or on DVD. I have been amazed at how they have skilled themselves up to become editors and producers and some have gone beyond this to create a really unique creative experience. While many of our videos are tailored specifically for our audiences in care homes and day centres, I’m delighted that we also have many for the general public to enjoy at LINK. We invite anyone caring for an older relative at this time to help them access the videos.”
Lorraine Calderwood, Community Development Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,
“The Arts and Older People Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. We’re delighted that Live Music Now has adapted their work during this time of Covid-19, to continue to bring great art to older people in care homes. Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as-well as reduce isolation. The arts also have a vital role to play in helping older people find their voice and promote positive physical and mental health.”
Musician Deirdre Galway said,
“We were in the USA touring when the pandemic hit and within the space of a few days all our performances in spring and summer were cancelled. It’s pretty devastating, but we’ve done our best to adapt.
Live Music Now has been particularly proactive about supporting their musicians and providing opportunities to work remotely. Our series of videos for a care home audience will include folk songs, lively dance tunes and relaxing airs. We’ve included footage of the outdoors to give our audience a much needed connection with nature at this time. We hope to bring some joy to listeners and look forward to when we can return to the job we love, performing live music.”
Read more about musicians Deirdre Galway and Conor Lamb’s pandemic experience in their LMN Musicians’ Diary entry here.