On Friday 15 June, as part of his Associate Artist residency, Matthew Barley spent a day on the wards of the newly redeveloped Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, with the aim to raise patients’ spirits with some live music, as part of a special partnership project between Spitalfields Music and Vital Arts
Throughout the day we visited 6 wards including, Elderly, Neuro and General patient wards, working directly with 42 patients, 10 visitors and 8 members of staff. Each performance was extremely intimate and personal, with under 4 patients in each room, so the day brought about many one-to-one conversations, experiences and reflections. Matthew based his repertoire choices on these conversations with patients, as well as the atmosphere of each room, performing a range of music from Bach, to folk tunes from Matthew’s travels and many improvised pieces.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, resulting in an unforgettable and extremely moving day. Matthew’s music triggered so many stories, memories and conversations, and brought some welcome joy and relief to all who shared the experience.
Here are some of the responses from those involved:
“How can we get more of this? It livens the place up”
Consultant, Trauma and Orthopaedics
“Lovely music to start the day”
Senior Sister, Care Of The Elderly ward
“It’s fantastic. I really like it”
“There’s only so many times you can read the paper. It’s great to have something different”
“Marks out of 10: I’d give you 11”
“That was lovely – it’s usually so quiet here”
“Music? Yes please. We were wondering what to do with ourselves this afternoon but some music would be perfect”
“Do you mind if I film this, so I can show my dad later? He wont believe us otherwise!”
Patient’s visitor (daughter)
“Great. Matthew [patient] is asleep at last. He’s been trying to get up all day”
“You should have more of this. It makes everything peaceful and nice”
“You’re doing a great job of cheering people up – we’ve got nothing else to do and you get really bored. This is lovely”
“Music? How nice. Pity I forgot my dancing shoes”
“It’s nice to choose music. When you have music, you have something inside of you to keep you going. It’s a wonderful gift” Patient on Elderly ward.