Written by: Alex Marshall, Trainee Music Leader
From nothing, shaking a tambourine, still half wrapped in coloured scarves.
A perfectly formed melody gifted to us whilst fiddling distractedly. Mumbled only once and then never heard again.
Two residents encircle a carer in a joyous dance.
Playing at blowing out (and on) battery-powered candles.
A flurry of coloured scarves like a snowstorm.
“I’ve got a dinger, you’ve got a donger.”
R and S ‘throw’ the sound of their hand chimes between themselves and at me across our circle. This is just one interaction in the dynamic, convoluted web of relationships in the room. No one could be aware of all the connections going on.
I’m struck by how naturally improvisation and play comes to many of the residents (or ‘customers’ as staff call them) and carers in the home. With no explanation of what’s happening other than ‘we’re going to make some music together’, people participate in every way. This can include initiation, augmentation, direction, description and appreciation.
Although we face difficult and probably unanswerable questions about consent and agency, sessions are normally full of smiles, laughter and satisfied sighs. This is clearly a good. A practice in wellbeing and presence. I would most expect to see this kind of creative play in children. Instead it is facilitated with people living with dementia. But I find myself asking why these kinds of activities are limited to these groups – I feel better in myself every time I leave a session!