As part of the Care for Music Festival, held at Mountbatten on the beautiful Isle of Wight, we took part in a ‘knowledge exchange’ event with local musicians.
Originally, and thinking of the very special ‘Moody Blues’ piano that’s available in Mountbatten’s John Cheverton Centre (JCC), we’d intended the event to be for Island-based pianists. We thought they might like to try their hands at playing ‘piano lounge music in a hospice or care setting’. Then we expanded this idea to include any other ‘harmony instruments’. We were thinking of things like classical guitar, or harp… To our surprise, the musicians who expressed interest in the event were, all of them, folk musicians, in particular musicians with strong interests in Sea Shanties!
Our first thought was, “well, will Sea Shanties ‘fit’ into a care environment? Aren’t they a little – er – boisterous? Will that be too much for a hospice lounge?” We were quickly proved wrong…
So, we met back in March and had a really rich, fruitful discussion. It led to the notion that perhaps the musicians might play (or rehearse) outside in the summer weather on the hospice deck – so as not to be too loud inside the lounge area. Then, one of the musicians, John Bentley, who also organises the monthly folk club at Quay Arts, proposed the idea of a – Mountbatten Folk Club. A group of musicians who would visit the hospice, meet in the JCC, each taking a turn to offer a song and, over time, get to know and be known by the people and the place. John and his colleagues discussed this a bit more, John proposed it to Mountbatten, and met with Matt White, Director of Communications. The idea got the green light from CEO Nigel Hartley, and now the Club has met for the first time, last week, in the JCC. The musicians come to Mountbatten on a voluntary basis, donating their time and art. They offered classic folk songs, sea shanties, and originally composed songs.
The Mountbatten Folk Club is now open to anyone who uses Mountbatten’s services, to staff, family, and Mountbatten volunteers. The hope is that people from Mountbatten might also join in. And indeed, in the first session that already happened. One outpatient, a highly accomplished song writer, has already joined the group and offered his original songs. And – delightful coincidence (or perhaps not, given we are on The Island) – it turned out this man also had a long-standing interest in – Sea Shanties!
In the middle of it all, a senior nurse came in, saw what was happening and immediately went to fetch her camera. A long conversation ensued. Discussions of ukuleles, where to learn how to play them and where to find folk groups on the Island. Tia chatted with some of the day patients and visitors who seemed very clearly to be enjoying the music. CEO Nigel Hartley came out to say hello and invited the group to play in the wards next time they visited. When the musicians turned to the audience to ask if anyone else might care to offer a song, one spritely lady piped up: I can’t sing you a song, but if I had a triangle I’d play along.
And so, Mountbatten has taken to the High Seas with exuberant, lovely, vibrant music. The musicians offered some of their original songs and we all sang along to folk classics such as Cockles and Mussels, Bob Dylan’s Girl from the North Country, Amanda McBroom’s The Rose, Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town, The Isle of Wight for Me, and – it was bound to be sung – umpteen jolly verses (some of them improvised?) of What Can You Do With A Drunken Sailor.
Thank you to the musicians! And looking forward to the next time!