Songs from the Heart17th September 2020 | 16 mins
Music touches our lives in countless ways. From the soothing sounds of a lullaby, to songs that mark significant life events, music creates the soundtrack to our lives. This is why music therapy can be such a powerful tool in meeting the emotional, cognitive, and social needs of older people, particularly if they are living with dementia. Through music therapy, comes reminiscence, social connection and feelings of belonging and wellbeing.
Opal Blacktown has had an active music therapy group operating since the home opened two years ago. The group is well represented by a range of residents, including many who are living with dementia, and is something that everyone looks forward to each week. Music therapist, Geena Cheung, has led the group from the start. It was Geena who first proposed the idea that each person could write a song, telling the story of their life. She shares that when she first made the suggestion, she was met with responses like, “I can’t write a song, I’ve never done it before!” It wasn’t long however, before the group were confidently putting down their memories on paper and setting them to music.
Resident, Roy Peime shares, “We really enjoy music therapy. Geena plays the guitar and we work as a group, using a computer program to compose songs together. There’s a large group of us and we all have different tastes in music, but we all throw our ideas out there and somehow it works.”
With so many budding songwriters producing original songs, the group came up with the idea of publishing them in a book that everyone could enjoy. Overall, an amazing 24 songs were collated into a beautiful volume titled Songs from the Heart, incorporating childhood photographs and mementos with the musical scores.
Once the songs had been written and the new repertoire learnt, it seemed a shame for our musicians to keep it all to themselves. In 2019, the idea of forming a choir and taking their performances on the road came about. Following a spectacular launch event at Opal Blacktown attended by local dignitaries, family and friends, our Blacktown Choir embarked on a tour performing at other Opal care homes across greater Sydney, together with a local school and hospital.
The performances included original works together with some old favourites that everyone could sing along to. One of the highlights was a magnificent duet of My Way performed by Roy Peime and General Manager, Geoff Stone, that even Ol’ Blue Eyes would be proud of. Pacita, a spritely 93-year-old who accompanies the choir on piano, sums up the feeling of the group, “Music is a special part of my life. I feel a spiritual connection when I play. It’s a way of spreading happiness and sharing love with others.”
As COVID-19 has put a temporary hold on the road show, we’ve produced a short-form documentary which lets you ride along with our Songs from the Heart choir as they embarked on their tour in June last year. Enjoy!
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