Make Music Winter

Make Music Winter


Window Serenades share the joy of live music with isolated people, bringing solo musicians or small groups to play outside care home windows for those who request a song.

Created as a socially-distanced program for Make Music Day on 21 June 2020 and cross-promoted by the international Make Music Alliance as a way to provide safe musical performances during a global pandemic, Window Serenades can be just as relevant in the winter, reaching those who are isolated during the long dark days of the year.


Back in June, Musicians Coronavirus Action Ilkley organised a synchronised event for volunteer musicians to perform outdoors at local care homes and other housing facilities for elderly people. Over 8 individual performances, 13 musicians serenaded 120 residents with guitar, flutes, oboe, banjo, string quartet, harp, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and song.

Speaking about organising the event, Les Goldman (Musicians Coronavirus Action Ilkley and Chair of Two Rivers Bands) commented,

I’ve got quite a lot of amateur musician contacts and we put out a call for volunteer musicians… and we set-up a little rota of volunteers who were prepared to go to care homes… We initially had 3-4 care homes involved and now we have 8-9 involved.

We’re almost all amateur musicians and most of the people involved are very active in amateur music. They’ve found that their opportunities to perform have been virtually nil. The wonderful thing is that this has given us the opportunity to perform and also to fulfil a very definite social need. It’s an opportunity to perform and also to be appreciated – and do something good. People refer to it as bringing smiles to people’s faces and I think that, that is true.

Window Serenades are a remarkably simple concept that can have a huge impact on local communities – why not give it a go!

  • A group of enthusiastic musicians – although a solo musician could do a Window Serenade on their own, it’s more fun if there are multiple artists who can perform in rotation, or cover more territory at a large care home.
  • Any gear you need to perform – to stay socially distanced, don’t ask the nursing home to provide anything. Bring your own music stand, guitar amp batteries, warm jacket, and anything else you need.
  • ‘Make Music Winter’ or ‘Window Serenades’ signage – however extensive the care home’s internal communications, assume that some people never got the message and won’t know why you are there or what you are doing. Having signage will save any potential confusion!

Window Serenades usually follow one of three approaches:

  1. Coloured paper shows which windows receive serenadesresidents who want a serenade are instructed by the care home to tape paper of a certain colour inside their window on 21 December. The musicians then stop at each identified window and perform one or two songs. In this scenario, you will need to coordinate a time with the care home for musicians to come when the residents will actually be in their rooms.
  2. Musicians travel around the perimeter and play a song every few windows – if the performance will occur while the residents are spread throughout the facility, or in their rooms but the home can’t coordinate the coloured paper, musicians can walk around the grounds, playing a song or two every few windows as appropriate. This can also be a backup to option 1 if the musicians arrive and find no papers displayed.
  3. Musicians perform in one specified location – if the performance will occur while the residents are gathered together in a communal room with an open window, the musicians can play a longer set for everyone there together.

When you call a care home that you’re interested in working with, ask to speak to the Activities Coordinator. Talk to them about Window Serenades, explain the approaches this could take (1, 2, and 3 above), and ask if they are interested.

  • Many may be skeptical at first, as entertainment programming is often ‘sold’ to care homes. Be sure to mention several times that this is completely free. A brief explanation of Make Music Day or Make Music Winter can give context.
  • If you make initial contact more than a month before 21 December, be sure to follow up regularly so it stays on their mind and on the calendar, as they likely have a lot of schedules they’re juggling.
  • Some Activities Coordinators will have a preferred time for the performance, others will want you to tell them when the musicians are coming and they’ll plan accordingly. Whatever you work out, confirm the details over the phone, and also in a follow-up email.
  • While Window Serenade repertoire can be anything you please, your audience are likely to respond best to recognisable classics and Christmas songs.
  • Typically, performances are brief (it doesn’t take long to make an impact!) and you can feel free to repeat the same songs as you walk from window to window.
  • Consider your volume, the acoustics of the outdoor space, and what’s needed to be heard from behind a window.
  • Check in with the care home a few hours before the performance is scheduled to make sure the staff that day are expecting the musicians.
  • Ask the care home for the phone number of a contact person to call when the musicians arrive, to give them a heads up.
  • Stay flexible. If the plan you arranged in advance doesn’t work out exactly, there will still be a way you can share the wonderful music you’ve prepared.
  • Have fun! This may be the first time in months some residents have heard live music, and it’s certain to bring smiles to everyones faces!

We’d like to thank the Make Music Alliance for compiling this guidance.