Tonight I look forward to another of our D’Music’a concerts. They are always a treat for me – an opportunity to see our choirs be acknowledged publicly for their consistent rehearsals, their improved sound together with each season and an opportunity to see family and friends to experience what’s possible with a dementia diagnosis.
This concert is a bit different and I’m particularly excited to celebrate with everyone because this time our choir members have not only contributed to the D’Music’a choir but have also given their time to work with over a dozen students from the Perse School. Both groups have come together to form an intergenerational choir which will perform tonight. These upper sixth form students stepped up as part of the school’s community outreach project to volunteer with individuals with a dementia diagnosis. They didn’t start singing immediately, first we re-considered past experiences volunteering in spaces like acute hospitals and care homes and discussed why this experience would be different. After learning about what happens for a person with a dementia diagnosis through workshops and talks from experts, the students spent an afternoon with participants of the Portals to the World museum programme participating alongside the alumni attending the session, an opportunity to focus on abilities over disabilities.
Then the music started and for this last school term, the students and the community choir members have rehearsed under the guidance of the School’s music director and a graduate pianist. An opportunity to sit side by side and speak openly about what it’s like to live with dementia. I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure what relationships would develop — it turned out to be a lovely co-volunteering experience that both groups took very seriously.
Considering the students’ early perceptions of dementia were quite tragic, including terms such as vulnerable, anger, frustration, distraught, helpless and sadness, the community members and I have a great respect for them for stepping up and being open to trying something new. I really think they have enjoyed their efforts and tonight we’ll celebrate them.