A series of reflections from Sarah Williams who is currently undertaking an internship with the Music for Health programme at LIME.
John Lancaster, Sitar Player
“The music is very relaxing and can help people to recover from treatment quickly” – Outpatient
The atrium was not as full of people as I had seen previously. There were people passing by, mostly individually or in couples.
“I love that sound,” a man said to his wife, the words transforming his face.
“oh, yeah…sitar!” she replied, somewhat supplying them with an external thought, separate to their hospital experience. Giving them an identity beyond “the couple waiting for their test results”.
A young boy who was brought down from his ward to see the music, had been running around frantically all day. Once in front of the music, he sat down for the longest period of time recalled by his play specialist. He smiled in response to the sounds and was not eager to run to the next location. He seemed relaxed and amused by the music.
John observed a child standing in each window opposite him, pressed against the glass. This was unseen by myself, hinting at how music gives people something that one cannot see or know.
An elderly man seemed transfixed by John’s music, sitting opposite gazing at him. He took a photograph once the music had stopped, saying that he wanted to paint him.
A young toddler ran over to John once the music had commenced. His peeved mother shouted at him to return back to her, to leave the music – illustrating how the strife brought about by hospital life is not simply erased by musical sounds.
Xinghua Xu, Piano
“Uplifts the mood and calms people’s nerves” – Outpatient
“Lovely music, fantastic idea. Makes waiting for prescriptions much better. Well done. More please” – Outpatient
People in the atrium were brought to tears by her music. The patients in the waiting room looked captivated by the music; gazing and smiling. Young people began to ask what the songs being played were called, sitting close to the piano, showing a keen interest in classical music. They seemed fixated on the music, finding it eye-opening and demonstrating a new part of culture to them.
Smiles were on the patients’ faces, followed by rounds of applause. It took everyone to a place elsewhere. Memories were evoked in patients, remembering their late father’s taste in music.
Oscar Bernhardt’s Charleston Charlies
“I thoroughly enjoyed the music, it lifts the spirit and made the whole time more enjoyable. I said to my daughter, ‘if the musicians are here again next time she is due to come, I will come again.’ Thanks very much” – Outpatient
Laughter was spreading throughout the atrium where patients were sitting waiting. Oscar’s warm, friendly, interactive approach with the outpatients provoked individuals to gather around and see the music. People stopped to stand together for a reason which was not their illness or misfortune. Smiles were on their faces and children were dancing.
People acknowledged each other for their enjoyment of the musical experience. People within the waiting area turned into people watching something, experiencing something happening, a performance aimed at them not just aimed at anybody. Interpersonal interaction based on something fun, amusing and far from clinical.
In the stroke rehabilitation ward, a lady cried as it reminded her of her husband and her life prior to hospitalisation. This hints at how music can evoke memories and identities outside of the healthcare setting.
Ladies in slippers were moving their feet to the music with jolly looks on their faces, singing together to the music and interacting with the musicians to request songs.
Little Oboe Trio
“Music is good for people; calming and pleasant to the eye, very good if you’re feeling low, relaxing” – Staff member
A young toddler was walking to follow her mother whilst keeping her head turned behind her to maintain her view of the music. Following her mother’s request to follow her, she could not keep her eye off the music.
A young baby in his father’s arms looks mesmerised, gazing towards the musicians with an open mouth. This altered the stance from a concerned parent to a father and a child enjoying a musical experience.
A very educational approach was adopted by the musicians when in the ward with children. This enabled some verbal interaction to take place in addition to a musical experience. Children were given information about the musical instruments used and asked questions to further encourage interaction. One or two young boys gave answers to the questions, regarding the musical instruments and the sounds they made.
Granted, some children were cautious and not confident enough to respond. However, the musical interaction continued to be shaped around the responses of the patients. One young boy crept away from the music when approached with a musical dialogue. However, he maintained a smile and look of intrigue towards the musician, providing the opportunity for the musical interaction to continue.
Avidity Brass Quintet
The brassy soulful music took place in opposite the entrance of the atrium, providing a warm welcome or goodbye to those around.
A young girl who had just had a leg operation, said her leg was very painful and was scratching it with a look of discomfort on her face. As the music began, she ceased scratching her leg. Instead, she was using her hands to imitate the musicians with their hand-held instruments. She daintily danced around whilst remaining seated, throwing her hands in the air pretending to conduct the musicians who were playing before her.
A mother was pleased to be around the music, saying that her autistic son finds great pleasure in music. Unfortunately he was sleeping at the time the music was playing, yet she seemed pleased to be a part of the musical experience, fulfilled by the knowledge that music is available in a healthcare scenario.
Children and adults alike were gathered on the balcony to observe the music being played. A young boy came to see the music who had a scooter with him and no longer seemed interested in the scooter, solely transfixed by the music.
Smiles were on the patients’ faces and a huge round of applause was given after each song. Members of staff in blue uniforms, accompanied by large hospital machinery were in the windows adjacent to the musicians, providing a reminder of the clinical setting the music was helping to humanise.
A young mother with her baby thanked the musicians for doing this and said it was great as she continued to dance back to her seat.
A family who seemed to be disagreeing with each other stopped shouting and watched the music, with their faces appearing calmer and their voices quieter.
An elderly man lying in a hospital bed turned around to gaze out of the window at the musicians playing below him. Whilst young girls danced with joyous faces and young boys watched intently.
Chris Layhe, guitar
“She enjoyed the songs and tears of joy comes out as she loves music” – Family member, on behalf of a renal dialysis patient
“ It made people happier, it’s relaxing, it cheers people up in a stressful situation” – Renal dialysis patient
““I really enjoyed the music, I think it was really fresh and it reminded me of Egypt for some reason, but it sounded great. I think people who are staying in hospital due to their child’s illness [are likely to] be very depressed, therefore I think its an excellent idea to entertain people and put a smile on their faces” – Family member of child patient
Holly Melia and Alice Kirwan form a duo who play the flute and the harp.
Prior to the music commencing, a young boy skipped towards the huge harp, his eyes glistening with curiosity. As he did so, his family were also distracted by what drew him in. As he stood before the wooden instrument, he spiritedly played with the harp strings and ran off to follow his family. This appeared to provide him with something to focus his and his family’s energy onto; provoking discussions outside of hospital life.
Groups stopped pushing their pushchairs, prams, wheelchairs and their own feet along the atrium and watched the music play. A lady videoed the musical performance, capturing the additional element of the hospital that day.
A staff member in blue uniform was rushing to the exit, checking the time on her watch. When she approached the musicians in action, her hastiness ceased. She took a seat and enjoyed a song before continuing her day.
A father walking alongside his son towards the exit was explaining what the harp was made from and used for; providing them with a focus external to the hospital.
Two members of staff entered the atrium together. Upon acknowledging the music, they held hands and both declared to each other “how lovely” as soon as they entered the room. A positive start to the day.
A young boy sat down in the centre of the floor in front of the musicians. His legs were crossed, his hands placed in his lap, looking up at the musicians with no indication of moving from his spot. He went on to dance, gleefully from side to side; ignoring his parents’ request for him to stand up and leave. His parents seemed to appreciate their son’s enjoyment. However, after a considerable amount of time they resorted to picking him up physically in order to move him away from the music!
A mother and son watched together, clapping happily along to the beat.
A girl stopped in her tracks to watch the music, with her mother having to hold her hand and guide her away.