– Guest blog by Charlotte Yandell, Musical Connections
We all know that singing is good for you, and even more so if you sing in a group. That’s why our charity uses it as a platform to help vulnerable, socially isolated older people connect with others and enjoy happier and healthier lives.
Based in York, Musical Connections has been running weekly music sessions, community choirs and singing groups for the last 12 years. We work with over 300 people across the community and use the benefits of group singing – better physical and mental wellbeing, connection with others, fun, and laughter – to facilitate long-lasting friendships and relationships between our members. Pre Covid-19, 90% of our members reported increased happiness and confidence, a greater sense of purpose, more time spent with others, and friendships made through their involvement with the project.
“You’ve got to have a reason to get up and that’s what this does for you”
As the world went into lockdown, many of ‘our musical family’ were frightened at the prospect of becoming increasingly isolated and cut off from the outside world – it was very clear that we needed to do something to sustain the community that they belonged to – could music keep us together even from far apart?
Well, historically speaking, it’s always helped us to cope during troubled times, and as the world around us went into disarray, we embraced online technology and explored practical and digital musical solutions to ensure that no one felt forgotten or alone; making weekly phone calls; song-writing over the phone, running Facebook Live and Zoom singing sessions; ‘doorstep singing’ when restrictions have allowed; collating recordings with Zoom group members and local students; and organising virtual intergenerational concerts.
Together, this varied programme of activities has highlighted the vital importance of sharing musical experiences with each other and against the most challenging odds, has positively strengthened our community. Interestingly, many say that their relationships are even stronger than they were at the start of the pandemic. This, and our experiences over the last 12 years, prove that you don’t need to be musically inclined to benefit from the immense power of music – it might be the glue that binds us all together, but it’s far less important than the connection, communication, and relationships that are created as a consequence.
Make Music Day gave us the chance to demonstrate that; in an exciting virtual collaboration between 4 of our outside groups, we recorded over 50 of our members singing this year’s festival anthem, Stand By Me. A timeless song of love and hope, it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the friendships and relationships that we’ve sustained throughout the pandemic, and a long-lasting memento of our first weeks in sessions again.
Our members might have found a song, but they’ve also found a family. We leave you with a final word from Stan, one of our members, about what the Musical Connections family means to him.