St Patrick and the power of music


You can also download this podcast via iTunes.

Not being Irish and only being an occasional drinker of Guinness St Patrick’s Day has never really meant much to me. This year was different.

Hospital radio Reading asked me to be the roving reporter for  a St Patrick’s Day event in the Royal Berkshire Hospital. This event involved two musicians, Simon and Kieran, performing a mixture of Irish songs on the Burghfield Ward.

The Burghfield Ward is primarily used for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. As the two musicians tuned up I sat pensively in an armchair, microphone and outside broadcast in my lap. In moments I was due to link up live with the studio. No one had come to listen to the music. From a reporter’s point of view things were frustratingly peaceful! Then,  after some coaxing from Kieran, one by one assisted by staff and visitors the patients shuffled in.

The musicians picked up their guitars and began to play “Ohhh DANNY BOY!”Like a startled bird the heavy quiet atmosphere fled the room. In its place was a wonderful tumult of singing, clapping and dancing. It was amazing to witness the positive effect the music had on the patients. One patient in particular, who’s daughter you can hear me interview in the above

ve podcast, had apparently not really moved or made a sound for days. Upon hearing the music she began clapping her hands. Within moments she was up and dancing with two nurses. The transformation was incredible; the music really brought the patients to life.

Apparently there’s been a lot of work recently with regarding music and Alzheimer’s suffers. Many cannot remember how to do simple everyday tasks such as wash themselves yet can remember word for word songs from decades ago. Although the benefits of music therapy are still unclear from what I saw it at the very least seemed to lift the spirits of the patients.

More info on music and Alzheimer’s-

Myself and musician Simon