Tuesday 25 September 2018

Evoking memories through music

Reverend Gerard Dolan, Rita Devins and Angela McCann at Nazareth House.
Reverend Gerard Dolan, Rita Devins and Angela McCann at Nazareth House.
Margaret Gaughan, Daphne Stewart and Anne Mahon all getting into the swing of things.

Jessica Farry

"Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it," - the wise words of Stevie Wonder.

And the words of the great Stevie Wonder certainly ring true for the residents of St. John's Community Hospital and Nazareth House who get to enjoy music and movement sessions each week with facilitator Shailagh Healy.

Each week, Shailagh brings numerous instruments with her and encourages participants to sing along and get involved.

And, the participants clearly love their weekly classes - some even offering to sing solo for everyone to enjoy.

This is something that Shailagh is passionate about, and she was always keen to try something like this, as she says music has this special power.

"I loved to travel around and volunteer at retirement homes and play music, read poetry and things like that. I noticed it really strengthened the memory of people. I'm a musician and I really wanted to do more outreach. So I put it out to lots of places and while the uptake was slow, I persevered.

"At Christmas then I was volunteering at Nazareth and we just hit it off and they asked me back, so I started this about two years ago," she told The Sligo Champion at St. John's last week.

And she says music triggers special memories for some people.

As soon as the music began, smiles filled the faces of the participants and those sitting in on the session.

"It's something really different. It not only triggers the physical body but it triggers emotions and memory, individually and collectively.

"There are some people here with dementia and they have no compos mentis, and they'll stare at the floor but when the singing starts their head comes up and they don't need notes. Music can really bring back the memory."

"I see these things on YouTube and Facebook, miracles with people's memory and them improving in front of your eyes, sometimes it's not that much of a miracle.

"And fair play to the centres, they see the potential and possibilities that can come from something like this."

Sligo Champion