When I arrived at todays concert, I was greeted by the events coordinator, who couldn’t have been any nicer. They started by introducing themselves and then preceded to tell me how grateful they were at the center for me turning up, and Music in Hospital booking the concert.
I was told that one of the residents who’s name was Jean had special needs and was leaving today to go to another center. I am unsure why this was but they decided to throw her a party. I was warned that Jean loves to sing and not be put off by the constant singing out loud. I was told that the good news was that there would be lots of cake and orange juice, happy days.
I asked to see the room so I could judge what I needed to bring from the car. It was a small room, which didn’t require a PA system so I decided to just go ahead with an acoustic performance so it wouldn’t be too loud and the activity coordinator agreed with me.
There were around 15 to 20 people in a small room that was really hot. The clients seemed so interested in visitors and they staff were excellent. They were really engaging with the clients laughing and making jokes shouting out “who is up for the party?”
Apart from Jean that had special needs, which I believe, was Downs syndrome, the rest of the clients were just elderly, some in a wheelchairs some with Zimmer frames. Its always difficult to judge at this point how the crowd is going to be and what they are going to respond too.
The best way to plan for this is to have a large section of material ready to swap round. I decided to start the concert with Dock of the Bay by Ottis Redding. I find this is a good song to start with, as nearly everyone knows it.
I judge how the audience react too this genre by watching them while I sing. Generally I can see people tap their feet, then mime the lyrics. If I see these two signs I know it’s a good start, which can then be hopefully backed up, with the round of applause at the end.
Each song I play, I tend to give them a little piece of information with the songs, such as when it was written, what it is about or the reason why I was playing this today.
I have seen the audience really lap up the conversation aspects of what the songs are about and really engage with what they know and can share. It is important to be able to rein it in. I found that sometimes with clients who may have special needs they really wish to tell you everything they know about the songs and can sometimes get carried away wit the conversation. It’s important to be able to gentle nudge the performance back on track by agreeing with them and telling them directly what the next song is.
Overall the concert was a success; there was lots of singing, lots of laughter and lots of people cheering after the songs. The Events organiser asked if it was possible to ask for me by name as they said the clients had giving me glowing reports.
I was keen to discuss music with the clients by I find that after the performance the staff are keen to move the clients to their rooms or other activities. I think if I am to gather more information on what the therapeutic benefits are of the performances I will need to book time with the staff or some stakeholders to gather some details on this.