Anyone who saw the choir’s stunning performance at Harfest, their flash mob at Altrincham Market or their Christmas performance at Manchester Cathedral will have caught sight of the myth and legend that is Clare Morel. If The Music Place were a country, she’d be a national treasure.
Alongside her one to one vocal coaching and conducting The Music Place choir, Clare also runs ‘Vibrant Voices’, our weekly singing group for those living with dementia and their carers. She is also heavily involved in The Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘Singing for the brain’ program which, in their own words, “use singing to bring people with dementia together in a friendly and stimulating activity.”
The work Clare does is exciting and important so we asked her a few questions about what it involves.
Aside from Vibrant Voices, what other ‘singing for the brain’ work are you involved in?
I lead two community singing for the brain groups for people living with dementia and their carers. One is in Wythenshaw and the other Trafford. I also have a group which runs on a dementia ward in a hospital.
How do you think these groups benefit those living with dementia and their carers?
There are so many ways. Here are just a few. Firstly, it helps combat social isolation. We all need to socialize and these groups are great for the people I see to be among understanding friends who have similar experiences and hopefully have fun at the same time. Secondly singing is so beneficial to all and dementia amazingly isn’t a barrier for singing. People find that even when conversation can be difficult, they can remember the lyrics to song after song with no difficulty at all. It is so fascinating to observe. We all feel great after a good sing and I hope that the people in my groups agree! Thirdly, singing involves all the same muscles that we use to speak, so when people are continuing to sing when they have a dementia diagnosis they will be keeping all the speaking mechanisms moving which is great regarding promoting speech long into the future.
Do you ever find it challenging?
I enjoy the work that I do so much. I’m always filled with a sense of gratitude after each session. Music is so magical in the way that it lifts people and makes us all feel invigorated that I never tire of watching people enjoy their singing. I feel that I am so lucky to be the person to be able to facilitate their singing sessions that any hard work involved in putting the sessions together is totally worth it. One challenge I have (but do enjoy) is learning new songs that I may not have otherwise come across. I am always looking for new song suggestions for the groups and sometimes we will find a new smasher which is most rewarding.
What kind of music do you find is the most popular to sing in the groups?
That’s a really interesting question. It really varies from group to group and from week to week. People are so unpredictable which is what makes us so wonderful I suppose. I am frequently surprised at what people want to do and I have learnt that just when you think you know what people want they will want something else entirely. I’m never bored!
Why would you recommend these groups/ what would you say to people on the fence about trying them?
I am really proud of the groups that I run and one of the main reasons for that is the amazing people that attend them. I also have the best volunteers that anyone could ask for. They are so kind and always have time to listen and to talk to people. The wonderful people that participate in the groups teach me that enjoying yourself in life is so important and we must make time to have fun. If anyone was interested in coming along I would be confident that they will be made welcome. People sometimes worry that they won’t be good enough at singing but it’s not about that at all. It’s about the enjoyment of the music and joining in.
We’re really proud of Clare and all the work she does with those living with dementia. Thanks for letting us talk to you about it Clare!
Have a lovely week everyone!