Dunboyne musician bringing music into healthcare and community spaces

A musician from Dunboyne says she created a programme to bring music to healthcare settings to give older people a voice. It was during Gráinne Hope’s time in America that she saw the life changing benefits of sharing music with residents and patients in nursing homes and hospitals that inspired her to bring the idea to Ireland.

Now the cello player is calling on local musicians to take part in a three-day introductory course led by Music & Health Ireland, taking place from 26-28 August. The course is aimed at musicians in Meath and Louth who are interested in exploring the idea of bringing music into healthcare and community spaces with a focus on residential settings.

Music & Health Ireland is a non-profit organisation that designs, manages and delivers professional music projects and programmes in healthcare, educational and community settings around Ireland. This training programme is being delivered in partnership with Meath County Council Arts Office and Create Louth, the Arts Service of Louth County Council.

Gráinne who achieved a BA Music Degree at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama before travelling to study cello with Ann Martindale Williams at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh in the USA regularly performs with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra.

The musician is creator and artistic director of ‘Kids’ Classics’ which is a non-profit organisation that designs, manages and delivers professional music projects and programmes in healthcare settings around Ireland. Gráinne and her team have worked in facilities including Neo-natal, paediatric, oncology, geriatric, psychiatric, dementia and Alzheimer’s units. In 2012 she designed and delivered Ireland’s first paediatric hospital music residency in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.

Gráinne said she wanted to merge her passion for music with her love for allowing people to share their stories, something that became essential the pandemic and where their ‘tea, chats and tunes’ idea originated from as she explains:

“We want to amplify their voices, we want to empower people. The aim really is to take the professional high quality approach to music delivery to the heart of our communities including those residing in nursing homes.”

“The stories we hear from residents when we are in are amazing, the culture and life experiences, their voices are so often hidden so we thought about how could we share the stories that we are hearing that are often a response to live music.

“Music is in all of us, whatever your culture might be, in celebrations in life, in radio moments. That generation is very strong and the radio is what connected them in their communities, to learn about news or weather so along with that came music.

“People talk about their younger days farming and milking we even ended up talking about poitin one day! Stories are so intrinsically linked. Someone might have memories of getting married to a song, so they are learning something about each other as well.

“When we work in the dementia unit, the reactions and responses might seem small but are absolutely huge for someone with dementia who has taken away their vocal voice but you can see their finger or toe tapping.”

Tea, chats and Tunes, an online community concept that allowed nursing home residents and their loved ones connect when they were separated by the pandemic.

“There were families who weren’t travelling back to meet their loved ones so we thought how could we support the setting and their loved one to do something collectively together.” said Gráinne.

“A cup of tea is always the start of a good solution, everyone in Ireland loves a bit of a chat and of course if you add a couple of tunes in then people could come in to have a chat about music, what excites them, the memories that might come up from a song and be in one space together.

“We learned how music can help rebuild relationships and social connectiveness, even residents that were in individual rooms, that weren’t in that communal sitting room because of the risk of Covid we could connect them in with concerts. Three or four musicians would connect in on a Friday morning to the 18 nursing homes in Co, Meath. It was open to them to come a long and put in a request if any of them would like to share a song ,a poem or even a story with them and we try to just connect on the screen. We even had people from Addis Ababa and New Zealand clicking in to see their loved one enjoying a concert.”

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