Reading My Way Around the World

Friday 18 May 2012

SINGING - for Alzheimers

How singing unlocks the brain
By Jane Elliott
BBC News Health reporter 

As Bill Bundock's Alzheimer's progressed he became more and more locked into his own world.

He withdrew into himself and stopped communicating with his wife, Jean.
Jean said Bill lost his motivation, and his desire and ability to hold conversations, but all this changed when the couple started attending a local sing-song group, aimed especially for people with dementia.
Jean said Singing for the Brain had unlocked Bill's communication block.

Personality change

"The first time we went to Singing for the Brain he did not join in. On the second session he was starting to join in and by the third he was thoroughly taking part.

"It was wonderful for us. The singing had started to change something. It really did make a tremendous difference. He started to come out of himself.
“ I would take the song sheets home after the sessions and we would sing them at home 
Jean Bundock
"His personality started to change and he became much as he was before, and he was able to hold a conversation.

"He is 82 and likes all the old-time songs, but he also started singing some Beatles songs and songs from the Broadway shows and even some modern stuff as well.

"He seemed to be able to slowly learn things again. I would take the song sheets home after the sessions and we would sing them at home. It enlivened him and he really enjoyed doing it."

Bill, from west Berkshire, has been in hospital recently after having a stroke, but Jean kept up the singing and said it has given them both a focus, even helping his slurred speech recover following the stroke.

"I don't know what it is that changes in the brain when people with Alzheimer's sing, but obviously something does change and there is something very beneficial about it. It seems to kick-start something in the brain and has made such a difference to Bill."

Emotional resonance

Chreanne Montgomery-Smith, who founded Singing for the Brain, three years ago, said the weekly sessions had proved so popular they were hoping to expand the project and get more weekly groups.

"We do have quite an avid following in the group that we have. Families believe it has enhanced their lives and in some ways it has kept people well longer.

"People who have constant memory problems are so undermined by this, but somehow the memory for singing is preserved for ever in the brain and it gives people a lift when they can remember things".
“ We choose things to sing for people that have an emotional resonance 
Chreanne Montgomery-Smith
Chreanne started singing with groups when she was working in a residential home and was so amazed by the positive effect on people with dementia that she decided to include this when she went to work for the Alzheimer's Society West Berkshire branch.

"We choose things to sing for people that have an emotional resonance, things that allow them to express their emotions such as feeling cross or sad as well as happy.

Singing tutor Liz McNaughton, a freelance voice coach with Singing for the Brain, explained the concept had been so popular and successful that she had been asked to run workshops for people with Parkinson's Disease, those who had strokes and head injuries and for people with special needs.

"It would seem, and there is a lot of research about this, that the music has the ability to access words. It is so powerful that people who have lost their ability to speak can access songs and words from the melody."

She said the singing sessions appeared to have positive effects on participants' cognitive powers, their physical ability and their emotions.

Rhythm 'beneficial'

Clive Evers, of the Alzheimer's Society said Singing for the Brain was proving so popular and beneficial that he hoped more groups would soon be established.

"What Chreanne Montgomery-Smith is tapping into is very important. It is not the stream of consciousness, but a level of consciousness, a level of awareness people have with the real world.

"The music allows them to engage. Her project is very important and shows what can be done."

Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society and Professor of Age Related Diseases at King's College, London, said singing as an activity did seem to help people with dementia.

"People seem to enjoy doing something jointly with other people and there is a lot of evidence that being socially engaged is good for people with dementia."

He said the part of the brain that worked with speech was different to the part that processed music, allowing those who had lost their speech to still enjoy their music.

Mr Ballard said rhythm had also been shown to be beneficial, particularly for those with diseases like Parkinson's where movement was a problem. He said listening to rhythms, even just a metronome, could help.


My mind is like a butterfly these days - there's just so many distractions.   And even though most of them are connected with my creative work they still leave me feeling fragmented - should I be booking dates for the next tour in Germany or America or Ireland?  or should I be doing something with my website: or should I be figuring out what the packaging and design will look like for the new CD?  I got so frustrated with trying to keep in touch with people that I've made a total mess of my Facebook - so that's now another distraction - should I just dump it altogether or start another private profile that I can actually manage.  It's lovely to read about what other people are doing, but there's only so much input that I can take at any one time - so I reckon my limit is about 20 people for Facebook.  
Somewhere in the middle of all that I want time to work on my songs - a little bit of practice is a life saver - that's what i do after all, I'm a musician.   And then of course a wee bit of exercise would also be brilliant.   But I'd love to take the time to go out and trawl through the shops for some ideas for stage clothes and for photos .... oooh and there's an auction next weekend!!   And I bought some lovely bits of material in Holland and Germany - must get down to them at sometime as well...   Phew!  Too much to think about - I think I'll just lie down and go to sleep.   Tomorrow's another day :)   Anyone got any suggestions for sorting out the muddle that's my brain at the moment?
Breathe in, breathe out ... Relax .... an early morning view of the Cooley Mountains to calm my scattered mind...

Saturday 12 May 2012

Nose pipes!!!!

Yes!  The new instrument of the tour .... Frank and Alison's introduction to the intricacies of the Nasepfeiffe - what a laugh:)))  and Tom learned enough in the couple of days we spent in Munich to join them for an impromptu interval performance during our Irish Folk Club gig at Ars Musica in Stemmerhof.
Duet... Frank and Tom on nose flutes .... the one instrument no-one will ask to borrow hahaha

Alison and Frank on stage

Tom myself and Alison :)))))

The coolest garden gate in the Bavarian colours:)

All in all a great visit to two of our oldest friends.  Thank you to you both and I can't wait til we see you again:)   Here's a link to Frank's website -   Frank and Alison brought us on our very first trip to Germany nearly 2o years ago for the wonderfully named Paddy Goes Bayern tour.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Singing - lift your spirits

"I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing".  ~William James

I love this quote.  Nothing lifts my spirit quite like singing .... When I was a teenager I felt it was my prayer - my connection to spirit - a direct link to the power of the Universe.   Through the years I've suffered because I paid attention to other people's opinions about what was or is fashionable about singing - how exactly they felt the voice should sound.   But thankfully as I've grown older, and after years of coaching other singers, I've now got to a place where i don't really think about my voice at all; I only focus on the song - and if the song is fun to sing, or emotionally moving, then the pictures roll in front of my inner eye as I pass on the story and I come off stage feeling like I've had a couple of hours of meditation and relaxation.  

So, if you're feeling blue,  go and sing loudly - put on your favourite song and sing along at the top of your voice - or be like Sally Bowles in "Cabaret", - scream at the top of your lungs!   She went and stood under a railway bridge as the train was going by - much more romantic for the movie screen:))   but it's just as good to get into the car and roll down the windows(when no-one's listening) and just throw back your head and go for it.   I guarantee you'll feel better:))

Tuesday 1 May 2012

My favourite church gig

I've loved the town of Annahuette since our very first visit there back in 2001.  The Henrietten Kirche is beautiful - such a wonderful venue to sing in - and the surprise of a Kneipe in the cellar is a hoot.   Lovely people.

With Herr Noack and Siegelinde after the concert.
The first time we visited I could speak little or no German and Tom spoke none at all  - these three wonderful gentlemen solved the problems of the world and communicated via the universal language of whiskey lol  I made the mistake of joining them!!!!