MUSIC can be life changing for older people, reducing depression and engendering a sense of purpose and optimism.
That might seem self-evident but it has been confirmed in research carried out in conjunction with The Sage Gateshead and put into practice by a group called Semitones.
The group, who rehearse at weekends at All Saints’ Church in Gosforth, play popular and classical music in residential homes for the elderly in Newcastle. Recently they got a grant from the BBC Performing Arts Fund which they used to employ a music therapist to advise them on how to involve elderly audience members more effectively in their performances.
Cindy-Jo Morrison, from the arts therapies department at Prudhoe Hospital, Northumberland, suggested instruments which could be shared with and used by elderly people.
She also worked with Semitones to identify ways of encouraging audience members to join in.
Oboe player Annette Hames said the results had been outstanding with audience members singing, clapping and dancing, and also talking afterwards.
While older people who get involved in musical activities have reported feeling more positive and energetic as a result, the Semitones musicians said they also found their concerts more enjoyable because audience members appeared to be enjoying the music so much more.
Semitones, consisting of musicians of all ages and abilities, perform about 25 concerts a year. New members are always welcome. If interested email email@example.com. The group, with Cindy-Jo Morrison in attendance, performed their last concert of the festive season last Saturday at St Catherine’s Care Home on Newcastle’s West Road.
The BBC Performing Arts Fund awarded £250,000 to community groups across the country during 2012 as part of its Community Music Scheme. Other North East grants went to Core Music, a community ceilidh band in Hexham, and the Voicemale men’s folk choir in Morpeth.