Opera has come to Didsbury care village, Belong Morris Feinmann, with residents taking part in a series of workshops delivered by SoundUp Arts, a dementia-focused community music project in association with the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) and Opera North.
The weekly sessions saw 13 RNCM students entertain residents with opera classics such as La Boheme and Giulio Cesare. These performances were supported by a range of multi-sensory activities, including sing-a-longs, reflective writing, live painting and handling of instruments and props, which proved very popular with participants. Many remarked on the collective enjoyment, sense of community and memories created as a result of the intergenerational project.
The success of the workshops was celebrated with an opera gala at the village, where residents donned extravagant costumes, including satin evening gloves, hats and fans. 89-year-old resident and lifelong opera fan, Pearl Gruber, compared the event to the delights she had experienced at the MET in New York. She said: “Listening to these talented performances has filled me with pure joy and brought back some wonderful memories.” Equally full of praise, 84-year-old resident, Shirley Freeman, added: “Everyone in the room was smiling, we are so delighted the singers came to our village!”
Angela Luckett, Experience coordinator at Belong Morris Feinmann, said: “The opera workshops have proved a huge success at the village, enabling our residents to connect with each other and their past through music. To have the input of such high calibre musicians has been a wonderful opportunity, helping to enrich the lives of our residents.”
Founder of SoundUp Arts, Lucy Temby, is a Junior Fellow in Learning and Participation at the RNCM and Dementia Group Leader at the charity Together Dementia Support. Lucy is also a Dementia Friends Champion and participatory arts trainer, which has enabled her to equip the student volunteers with the necessary skills required for the project. She commented: “It has been a truly special month at Belong Morris Feinmann and I’m delighted to see the positive impact the workshops have had on all those involved. Our student volunteers have thoroughly enjoyed forming relationships with residents and staff throughout the project, and we look forward to working with the village again in the future.”