The Festival!

The Care for Music Festival at Mountbatten

The Care for Music team is just back from Newport, Isle of Wight. The Project is now nearly at the end of its formal schedule (though we will continue with writing and outreach and connect to the Island Life and Death project which runs through 2024). We were thrilled that our long-anticipated Festival was finally able to happen at Mountbatten Hospice. There was an intimate seminar around project findings. There were sofa discussions around a wonderful film produced by Wolfgang Schmid and Jill Halstead. There was a tour of the hospice for Wolfgang from CEO Nigel Hartley.

Nigel Hartley in front of his portrait in the Mountbatten and Me Exhibit
Nigel and Wolfgang in the chapel

There was a really fruitful meeting with three important folk musicians from the Island where we shared knowledge about playing ‘background’ music in caring settings. We hope that will lead to good things down the line….

And then… there was…. The Cabaret

The Cabaret evening was hosted by “The Singing CEO” Nigel Hartley. Fittingly, Nigel started off with the song Wilkommen (complete with inspired, improvised, occasion-specific lyrics):

Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Leave your troubles outside
In here at Mountbatten, life is beautiful
The ladies are beautiful
Even some of the men are beautiful

And I’ll tell you a secret:

Some say that even the CEO is beautiful…

And now presenting the choir!
Each and every one so musical–
You don’t believe me
Well, do not take my word for it
Let’s listen!

Taking its cue, the Choir began – with Cabaret! And we were off… 

The Mountbatten Community Choir with Fraser Simpson Conductor (Photo Nigel Hartley)

Solos and ensembles from choir members and service users… The choir were ‘on fire’, as Tia said in her poem of thanks to Catering Manager Vera Mircescu, Head of Communications, Matt White, the Choir, and Choir Director Fraser during the interval.

It was heartening to see how many Mountbatten volunteers turned out to help set up for the event. Café manager Jackie Davis, Café volunteer Sean, and many others gave up their time to make this special. And Donna Read, most amazing cake maker, produced this beautiful piano-shaped, delicious, cake….

The piano cake

 The soloists and ensembles were amazing. Some were in costume. There were two ‘nuns’ who sang Climb Every Mountain (they had a little trouble getting into their habits but we won’t make a pun about that here…). Outside, in the hospice gardens, the rain was coming down in buckets, so what more appropriate than Singing in the Rain along with a tap-dancer complete with a Mountbatten Sunflower umbrella. Another singer – who claimed to be an octogenarian – showed off legs that a twenty-year-old might envy. She was dripping in, as she put it, ‘my bling’ when she came briskly to centre stage to announce, ‘I’m the tart of the hospice’ and then sang, with relish, I enjoy being a girl

There was a birthday to be celebrated and a surprise singing by all of ‘Happy Birthday’. There was a medley of concertina tunes. There was an original song that moved us greatly and which continues to play on in our memories (If I could turn the clock back). Two original poems and very funny were read. Another lady sang a personally tailored version of I did it my way (which was about not bothering with the housework any more – she waved a rainbow feather duster about for emphasis). 

And Fraser Simpson, beloved by all the choir, played, conducted, and supported the soloists with panache and tender loving care. The Choir sang Beyond the Sea, It ain’t Necessarily So, Downtown and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Gary vamped along from the corner on piano number two. Tia and Wolfgang cheered from the audience. 

The halo’d Fraser Simpson, Conductor and Choir Leader Extraordinaire

Once again, Mountbatten has shown how it is possible to be, all at once, a vibrant cultural and community centre, a place where we can be light of heart, and a place of care for people who are dying. For the Care for Music Team, it was wonderful and inspiring. As Gary put it during the speeches, ‘if you care for music, music will care for you’.

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