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New dementia project coming to Canterbury

To mark World Alzheimer’s Day, we spoke to project leader Sam Glazer and violinist Richard Milone to find out more about a new dementia project, coming to Canterbury this autumn

During this year’s Tour we will be piloting a new musical programme for people living with dementia in Canterbury, in partnership with the Marlowe Theatre and the Catalyst for Culture programme.

Chris Stones, our Head of Tour Development says, ‘music can have a transformational power for people living with dementia, and often seems to be the only remaining route back to aspects of personhood that have been cut off by the condition. 12 years ago we started the Raise Your Voice project for local people living with dementia and their carers, and we are delighted now to be taking this important work with us on Tour.’

To mark World Alzheimer’s Day, we spoke to project leader Sam Glazer and violinist Richard Milone to find out more…

Sam Glazer – project leader

Could you tell us a little about yourself, and the dementia projects you have worked on before?

I’m a freelance cellist and composer and much of my work involves playing and creating music with diverse communities outside of the professional music world. My work with people living with dementia started 15 years ago, when I first joined the Music for Life team (now part of Wigmore Hall’s learning programme), and I continue to be inspired by their innovative values-informed practice. I was part of the team who set up Glyndebourne’s long-running ‘Raise Your Voice’ project in 2008, working with people living with dementia in the local community.

How do musical programmes like ours help people living with dementia?

It’s all about connection. I think there are three key elements to what we’re doing, and in fact they are applicable to most areas of music-making, in both professional and non-professional contexts. At base, it’s simply about meeting people where they are with kindness and respect, and bringing an open and positive attitude to the time we spend together. We know too that hearing live music of the highest standard is in itself an enriching and stimulating experience. More specifically, we are using improvisation as the musical foundation for this project, as it enables us all to participate, contribute and connect as equals, in the moment, regardless of our musical experience or mental or physical health.

Who will the project in Canterbury be for?

We’ll be a small team of artists from the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra and Chorus working with a group of people living in a residential care setting and their carers. I hope that the project will be an enriching experience for all of us!

What kind of activities will the project involve? Could you talk us through a typical session?

We’re aiming to provide a welcoming, relaxed space where people can experience a range of different musical activities. A small ensemble from the Glyndebourne orchestra and chorus will be performing bits of operatic repertoire. But equally importantly, we’ll also be creating a series of new improvised pieces, where people can join in and contribute to the music, both as part of the whole group, and also on a smaller scale.

Richard Milone – violinist

What is your role in the project?

I’m a freelance violinist who is lucky enough to be leading the Glyndebourne Tour orchestra. I’m very keen to share as much music, with as many people as possible, and if in any way doing that we pique the interest of a single person to delve into our world, it will be worth it. 

Why do you think it is important that Glyndebourne is doing this?

It’s a wonderful opportunity to ‘give something back’. Glyndebourne is a fantastic employer, and is always looking at positive ways to make our (the musicians, singers etc) lives as productive and comfortable as they can. I feel this is a chance to help the name to be reflected in a positive light in the community.

Why did you agree to be part of this project?

Fortunately I have no direct connection with dementia, but have been lucky enough to have done lots of work for ‘Music in Autism’. I have seen at first hand the amazing effect of classical music delivered live and at relatively close quarters on all ages and disabilities. If our music can give even the faintest balm of hope and rekindle distant memories then again it will be a worthy project.

Glyndebourne Tour will visit Canterbury from 3-5 November 2021 and following on from this pilot we are hoping to roll out the dementia project to all of our Tour venues in 2022.

Photos: Glyndebourne’s Raise Your Voice project in 2018 – Sam Stephenson | Sam Glazer photo by Sam Stephenson | Richard Milone photo by James Bellorini

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