Finding that Lost Chord
SINGING “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do”, Eileen Birmingham was clearly having a great time enjoying her front row seat at the live music performance.
Her voice was one of many joining in the chorus of the popular music hall song Daisy Bell.
It was being performed beautifully by top Cardiff-based mezzo soprano Joanne Thomas, accompanied on the harp by fellow leading Welsh musician Amanda Whiting.
But they weren’t on the stage of a grand opera house - they were in the residents’ lounge of Victoria Care Home, Worksop.
This was a performance organised by the charity Lost Chord, which aims to help dementia sufferers through the power of music.
Eileen, 95, said: “This is my favourite sort of music, it brings back happy memories.”
Bringing back memories is one of the most important things the Lost Chord sessions do, stimulating the brain and often provoking a reaction in people who otherwise seem locked in their own world.
Some sing along, some tap their hands and feet, and some even get up and dance.
Charity founder and chief executive Helena Muller said: “Any movement is good, even if it’s just opening their eyes, because it’s getting the brain working. Moving about also gets the blood circulating, which is good for the brain.”
“We once had a lady called Hilda who was bedridden and virtually in the foetal position. I took an oboeist into her room to play for her and Hilda raised her right arm, her sign that she was enjoying something.”
“So when people say we are wasting our time, I know that they are wrong.”
Sitting next to Eileen was Rose Bamborough, 85. She said: “I like all kinds of music, I remember going dancing, I used to do the jitterbug.”
Lost Chord volunteer Margaret Pemberton, of Woodsetts, said it was very rewarding to help at the music sessions.
“It’s a lovely experience and we get a lot of reaction from the residents. Some will join in the singing, or sometimes you can just sit and hold their hand and they will smile,” she said.
Margaret Webb, 84, who used to sing soprano in a Sheffield church choir in her younger days, said her favourite piece of music was the Lost Chord.
“I like all the old songs and old music. I joined a choir with my friend, she was a good singer but I wasn’t so good,” she laughed.
Joanne, who has sung with the Welsh National Opera, and Amanda, who is doing a masters degree in jazz, have worked for Lost Chord since it began 12 years ago.
Joanne said: “It’s a very different experience to what we would normally get as musicians.”
“We are used to being on a stage with the audience in darkness, whereas here we are close to the audience and can see their reaction immediately.”
Amanda said: “It’s like when you hear a song on the radio that reminds you of something, this can bring back memories.”
Helena said it costs £290,000 a year to keep the Maltby-based charity running. For information about donating or volunteering go to www.lost-chord.org.uk.