BSO Associate Neil Valentine – Music for a While at Bournemouth Hospital

‘Come on G, lets go to another area’ I say after finishing the last few bars of British Grenadiers to the applause of an elderly patient who was sitting with a family member in bay 4.

‘Ok’ G replies. ‘I wish I had some pounds to give you, I love the music’.
‘Don’t worry about money’ I say as we walk out of bay 4 and toward bay 1, final stop on our afternoon of music together.

G is my biggest fan. Her eyes light up when I play. She dances, moves, sings, claps, drags nurses and doctors into the Music, does not abide talking during Music making and has such a wonderful smile.

She is in her 80s and I first met her at Poole Hospital in mid 2016 where I was running a Music for a While session there with a few other patients and she was mesmorised.

At the beginning of October this year I met her again, this time on Ward 4 at Bournemouth Hospital. Instantly recognisable and instantly engaged in the music, G is my companion every Thursday afternoon when I visit.

She is calm and engaged when there is music. She wonders through the ward at other times, but during the Music she is clear and focused on it.

She sings along to the songs, ‘My Bonnie is my favourite’ she says before joining in with a round of Edelweiss.

She dances to all kinds of music. From a jig to A Life on the Ocean Wave, to clapping and tapping to the Sailors Hornpipe to some staccato shuffle to the Habanera from Carmen. She has a full repertoire.

I turn round. The doorway is full of 3 staff members. They are smiling. Not just at the Music, but more at the engagement and joy G is showing. It’s infectious.

Earlier, during Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky she strode up to another patient who was talking with a visitor and pointedly said ‘Shhh!’. She does not abide talking. Luckily the visitor smiled and put her finger to her lips. G smiled back and we all laughed along to the Music.

Music is enjoyable. Music is fun. But the enjoyment of others is also enjoyable. Music is a catalyst for this. G clearly loves live music. And her enjoyment of it makes it truly worthwhile. Staff sing and dance with her when they wouldn’t on their own. I dance with her! I know. Other patients see her in a new light, they see the engaged and passionate her, not just the elderly, nosey wanderer that appears during the day. Smiles abound. Reality is suspended. Music is the catalyst, but G, and people are the translators and conduits for sharing the experience, the experience that affects us all and draws us out of ourselves.

Here is to G, and Music Lovers everywhere.

Neil Valentine, BSO Associate Musician

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