Last autumn, LMN musicians Dan Walsh (banjo) and Nic Zuppardi (mandolin) of the Absentees delivered eight sessions in the Southborough Nursing Home in Surbiton where retired musician Glen Mason lived. The Scottish singer had a string of hits in the 50's and 60's and featured regularly in film, radio and television.
Sadly, Glen Mason died at the end of last August. As you will read in the story below, his music and spirit had a great impact on everyone he met.
Dan Walsh (banjo), Nic Zuppardi (mandolin) and Glen Mason at Surbiton Care home
The project was part of a larger series of residencies in care homes across the UK where retired professional musicians are resident, funded by Help Musicians UK (formerly Musicians Benevolent Fund). The residencies form part of the LMN national programme of work with older people, many of whom are living with dementia.
Using LMN's embedded training model, musicians were mentored by more experienced alumni and benefitted from the development of their creative practice, delivery and musicianship, not to mention the rich musical history and experiences of retired musicians they were performing to (and often with!)
Live Music Now's approach is based on a growing body of evidence that taking part in arts activities and in particular music and singing can offer a range of benefits for older people, including those with dementia.
"By supplementing medicine and care, the arts can improve the health of people who experience mental or physical health problems. Engaging in the arts can promote prevention of disease and build wellbeing." www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk
Below is an excerpt from LMN musician Dan Walsh's blog about his experience in the Surbiton care home:
It struck me throughout the whole residency how powerful music really is. Many of the residents didn't know where they were sometimes, couldn't hold much of a conversation and, painfully, some struggled to recognise their own family when they were present. But sing a song they knew and they sang it word perfect from start to finish. One lady particularly seemed to know the words to just about any song ever written and it became a lovely running joke/truth that she knew all the words when I didn't!
Most moving of all was the impact on the legendary Glen Mason. After the first week we went away and learned an old hit of his called What's Cooking Baby which we played at the second concert. Glen recognised it and by repeating the same line a few times we got him to sing along and he enjoyed that though it made him very emotional afterwards and us too for that matter.
We learned a couple more of his songs through the residency, the real hit being Glendora which was his biggest hit back then and his favourite. He sang along very enthusiastically with this one and as the weeks went by needed less and less prompting. He seemed so happy and joyful at singing again as it was obviously still such a big part of him as was being a showman. He loved the attention as his songs were played and enjoyed it when I stopped singing and left a verse to him which the residents also really enjoyed.
At the very end of the residency, we sang Molly Malone which had also been very popular with the residents through the concerts and Glen sang his heart out. I went and sat next to him on the last chorus and sang with him and I'm not ashamed to say there was a tear in my eye.
Read Dan Walsh's full blog on his experience here.
We are very grateful for the support we received from Help Musicians UK which made this project possible.