We are very fortunate to receive funding from the St John’s Foundation which has secured the future of our choir for the next three years. We were recently asked for an update about the impact the funding has had on our group, and it was a great opportunity to reflect on everything we’ve achieved over the last few months!
Here are some extracts from the report we sent to the St John’s Foundation:
The choir has continued to develop very positively sing the start of our funding from the St John’s Foundation. To mark the start of our funding term we held a relaunch event at the Chapel of St Michael’s Within. Thanks to PR support from the Stroke Association this event attracted press coverage from the Bath Chronicle and coverage on BBC Radio Bristol, who sent a reporter to record our rehearsal and interview some of the members.
We have been able to guarantee to choir members that weekly term time rehearsals will be held for the next three years and given them certainty that an important part of their (sometimes limited) social life will be maintained. We have continued to attract new members as we are certain that there will be rehearsals for them to attend. Some new members have had a stroke and developed aphasia quite recently, while others are further into their recovery.
We used some of the funding to purchase a new projector and screen which has been invaluable in allowing members to clearly see the words and pictures we use to display song lyrics and warmups in an aphasia friendly manner. Our old projector was not fit for purpose in our rehearsal venue and participants have commented on how effective the new projector is and how much easier it is for them to see and understand the lyrics.
We also purchased a new electric piano which a Music Therapy student plays to accompany the choir. The keyboard has a strong and authentic piano sound and a transpose feature which allows us to easily sing in keys which are most comfortable for our members. As a result of our funding we have been able to arrange for the placement student to be paid to continue to accompany the choir once her placement ends, allowing the strong relationships she has already built with choir members to continue and ensure that the choir are supported by a talented and flexible accompanist.
We have been able to continue the use of carefully selected vocal warmups and voice strengthening exercises taken from evidence based Music Therapy literature. Members have remarked that they feel their voices have become stronger and they are more confident in singing without damaging their voice, and external listeners have commented on how strong and rich the sound of the choirs’ singing has become.
The social aspect of the choir has become vitally important to its success, as members are able to make friends and support their peers within a supportive environment where everyone understands the impact of stroke and aphasia and there is no pressure to use complex language. As some of our members have experienced difficulties in their health and within their personal lives, the choir members have supported and uplifted each other through bad and good times.
Members of the choir who wish to take part in performances have had the opportunity to do so at an afternoon concert at the Chapel of St Michael’s Within, and at the Stroke Association Christmas lunch. Many members also sang in Southgate before Christmas in order to raise money for the Stroke Association which will be put towards running costs of the choir. We are also due to perform at the Pump Rooms as part of Party In The City in May 2019 and we are planning a concert in the summer.
Music Therapist Laura Cook and Speech and Language Therapist Emma Richards (who helped to set up the choir initially) were accepted to present a poster about the choir and its origins as a Music Therapy student placement at the British Aphasiology Society conference in 2018. The presentation included video footage of the choir and examples of our aphasia friendly lyrics. The poster was voted by delegates as the best poster at the conference and many Speech and Language Therapists who saw the poster have expressed an interest in starting aphasia choirs in their areas, using the Bath choir as a model.
We have used the funding to purchase and print Stroke Association leaflets and posters with details about the choir, and we are about to start distributing these to GP surgeries, hospitals and other appropriate locations around Bath in order to attract new members.
At our final meeting before Christmas 2018 the choir visited St Martin’s Hospital in Bath and held an open rehearsal for patients on the rehabilitation ward. Friends and family of choir members also attended. This was particularly special for the choir as one of our founding members had unfortunately had a further stroke a few weeks prior to this and was a patient on the ward. He had been very low in mood and unable to attend the choir so it was a privilege to be able to take the choir to him, and for his friends from choir to see him and offer their support at a difficult time. Some of the other inpatients in the ward had survived strokes and been newly diagnosed with aphasia, while other patients were living with dementia and were able to join in the music and singing at a time of the year when being in hospital can be particularly difficult.
A testimonial from Catherine, whose husband Tim has aphasia and has attended the choir since its inception:
‘Tim has been attending he Aphasia Choir since its inception, and he really enjoys it, as do others. The session is very friendly, supportive and stimulating, and everyone has a lot of fun. Many of our friends have commented on how Tim’s speech has improved since he has been attending choir, and I too feel that it has.
Tim’s voice is still very strong when he is singing, and I think this helps to boost his self-esteem. He has aphasia but can read, and so can sing confidently when the words are in front of him, as they are at choir, up on a screen in front. This facility would not be available to him at any other choir.
Attending the aphasia choir gives him an enjoyable opportunity to engage in an activity which takes him out of his disability and doesn’t remind him of it. We are very grateful for the hard work put into the choir by all the organisers and leaders.’