Opera North’s Melodic Memories Singing Group Receives Award

Thanks to a £6,000 award from the Power of Music Fund, people in Leeds living with dementia can keep singing, with the future of the group now assured for the next three years.

“It brings David joy. He perks up, you can see it in his eyes. He can feel the music. Music is important. It’s such a great thing for us to be participating in.”
Opera North Melodic Memories participant.

The Melodic Memories project started in autumn 2021 as part of Opera North’s ongoing work to enable everyone to enjoy the life-enhancing benefits music can bring. The relaxed, welcoming get-togethers are led by a professional vocal coach and pianist and take place monthly at the Howard Opera Centre, the company’s home in the heart of the City.

Held in partnership with Leeds City Council’s Peer Support Service, they are open to both people living with dementia and their carers, enabling them to spend valuable time together exploring how music can ignite memories and spark conversations.

Before each session, the group is invited to spend half an hour chatting over tea and coffee, with crafts and other activities often being incorporated to give the participants more opportunities for self-expression.

Jacqui Cameron, Director of Learning & Engagement at Opera North: “We’re delighted that the Power of Music Fund has chosen to support us in this way. We have seen at first hand how important these sessions are to people in the area living with dementia – and to their carers who accompany on the day. Everyone has commented on how much they appreciate having a safe space to sing, dance and enjoy music, and watching them flourish has been a real joy. Thanks to this generous funding, we can look forward to connecting more people through music and changing more lives in the future.”

Deborah Marshall Peer Support Co-ordinator, Peer Support Service: “Melodic Memories creates a wonderful, accessible opportunity for people living with dementia and their loved ones to participate in social engagement, singing, movement and creativity. The sessions are facilitated by professional artists, and it is their expertise, energy, support and understanding that are key to its success. The sessions go beyond singing; it is an holistic experience with elements of dance, musical movement, relaxation, breathing techniques, creative opportunities and so much more.”

The Power of Music Fund is being managed by the National Academy for Social Prescribing and has been kickstarted by a £1 million donation from The Utley Foundation. It is also supported by Arts Council England, Music for All,  and other donors, including members of the public.

The fund builds on the recommendations of the 2022 Power of Music Report, which outlined the benefits that music can have for health and wellbeing – including for people living with dementia. Through the fund, the National Academy for Social Prescribing aims to support groups working in the community, while improving links with healthcare providers, so that people with dementia and their carers can be ‘socially prescribed’ music projects.

Charlotte Osborn-Forde, CEO at the National Academy for Social Prescribing: “Research shows music can help people living with dementia and their families. We’re thrilled to have awarded Opera North this funding for Melodic Memories as part of the Power of Music mission to deliver funds to grassroots projects as part of social prescribing. The money will provide support for people living with dementia and their families, improving their physical and mental wellbeing and creating moments of joy through music.”

Melodic Memories sits within Opera North’s accessibility strand of work which includes dementia friendly and relaxed performances, as well as shows which are audio described, captioned and signed both in Leeds and on tour.

The latest in a popular series of relaxed matinee performances for anyone who may find a traditional theatre setting difficult to negotiate, is Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore in Leeds Grand Theatre on Wednesday 30 October.

Relaxed concerts featuring different musical styles are also held regularly in the Howard Assembly Room, the company’s central Leeds venue, which offers a year-round programme of music, film, performance and spoken word.

Everyone is welcome to attend the Melodic Memories monthly sessions with their family members and carers, but an initial referral through Leeds Peer Support Service is required to ensure the group best meets each person’s individual needs. Anyone interested in coming along can find out more on the Opera North website here.

Image: Enjoying music at Opera North. Photograph by Ernesto Rogata.

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