It is not every day that orchestral music can be heard playing down the corridors of Bodmin Hospital, but that is exactly what happened when the Endelienta Ensemble performed in front of patients and staff recently.
The orchestra are all young musicians, who tour the country, usually playing at festivals and concerts. But they swapped the fields and grand theatre halls for the wards of Bodmin Hospital for a performance with a difference.
The six members of the orchestra spent the day visiting the Community Assessment and Treatment Unit (CATU), Garner Ward and Anchor Ward. They chatted with patients and talked about the instruments they play. The group then performed several musical pieces, including ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’ and ‘Moon River,’ which patients and staff sang along to.
It was an emotional, yet joyous experience for the patients, who as well as singing, were given instruments to play along with, including maracas and tambourines.
The CATU unit was the first stop on the orchestra’s mini tour around Bodmin Hospital. The Community Assessment and Treatment Unit is for older patients with varying frailty syndromes, including falls, dementia, or poor mobility.
Julie MacKinnon, ward manager on Harbour Ward at CATU, said: “The patients’ faces lit up. I love the way the orchestra mingled with patients. They were straight in there, introducing themselves, showing the instruments.
“The orchestra brought a lovely bag of wooden instruments as well, so the patients were able to shake the maracas and tap the tambourine. They were really able to participate.
“The music they chose just resonated with them because it was of their era. A bit of ‘Moon River’ and a little bit of The Beatles. It was just fabulous.”
She added: “We had a lovely time during lockdown when we had the internet equivalent, which was really good. To have them here, face-to-face and live with their sense of humour and generosity of spirit was really good.”
The young musicians then made the short walk along the corridors to Anchor Ward for their next performance. Once again, they did not disappoint as patients and staff played and sang along to the music.
Donna Stanyon is ward manager at Anchor Ward, which provides inpatient care for elderly patients and patients who require rehabilitation following surgery or illness.
She said: “I thought it was brilliant. Some of the patients were not so sure to begin with. But then when they heard it, they were asking to come and see it.
“Seeing how good they were with the patients, getting them involved was amazing to see. I thoroughly enjoyed it and even the patients who did not go to the dining room could hear it and they enjoyed it. It brightened up a very busy day!”
The final performance took place on Garner Ward in front of a packed room of patients, some of whom were with family members. They all enjoyed a singalong as the Endelienta Ensemble’s visit came to a moving and emotional climax.
Garner Ward is the county’s specialist dementia ward offering assessment and treatment of organic mental health problems with dementia.
Becky Phillips, ward manager at Garner Ward, added: “For our patients living with dementia, music is so important because it engages every lobe of the brain. It enhances relationships with the team on the ward and their fellow peers on the ward as well.
“It is magic when everyone gets involved with their instruments and clapping along. Music gives a quality of life and improves their day when they are stuck in hospital. Some of our patients are on the wards for months so it really makes a difference to their day. It improves morale as well. It has been brilliant.”
Endelienta Ensemble is made up of young musicians, who are currently studying or have recently graduated from the London Conservatoires. Rachel Coe is one of its members, and she was thrilled to perform in front of patients.
She said: “It was incredibly moving for everybody. It is one of the aspects of our job that we feel lucky to be able to do. Watching the reactions of the patients and the staff is very humbling.
“We feel very fortunate that we get to come and, for the sake of playing a few tunes together, cause such an effect. There are different responses and different emotions. The group responds and it is very moving and very powerful. We must look after ourselves because we get a little emotional too! It is an amazing experience.
“A big part of our ethos going into this was that there a lot of people in our society who get accidentally forgotten because they are not in our public spaces anymore. These people love music and respond. It is important for their health, their social health, their psychology.
“By them being in this space where they cannot choose to go to a concert it can be so isolating. It is so easy to forget people like this in these circumstances. We really want to find as many people as possible that cannot come to concerts and bring it to them.
“Music is incredibly powerful and for people here it is one of the most beneficial things for them. We like to be able to bridge that gap. One of the important values we have is that you must remember that they are people first.
“When we come into this environment we are not coming in as musicians to perform a piece, we are coming in to meet people and to make relationships. Music has a way of making you have a relationship immediately.”