Paul performing to residents on the dementia unit at Glastonbury Care Home. Not a trumpet in sight as Paul plays and sings a beautiful rendition of the classic Cat Stevens song 'Moonshadow'
GCH residents really enjoyed listening to the flugelhorn piece: Feelings by Morris Albert.
Wells City Band has travelled a remarkably long way in a year. It’s been a privilege working with them - their debut concert at Cedars Hall (November 22) was a joy. A full band, no deps, big audience and a brass band doing what it does best serving it's community.
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Eyes to Heaven
Eyes To Heaven was written for the youth musical Dream A Dark Tear which was first performed by pupils on the specialist music scheme at Wells Cathedral School. The show went on to have a successful run in St Helier, Jersey.
Dream A Dark Tear is a fictitious story of an internationally famous band who self destruct in the full glare of public view and scrutiny due to a scandal the band cannot recover from.
Eyes to Heaven is sung by the central character to the scandal as they desperately look for help. They sing how they would treat the love of their life if the roles were reversed in the hope that they will be the same to them. As the song unfolds in the last chorus as a duet, the love of their life leaves them despite feeling the same but the intensity of everything is too much for them leaving the central character alone.
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Top of the hill
Top of the Hill was originally written for a short workshop youth musical - Said The Spider To The Fly, a project initiated by the Gloucester branch of the NSPCC. The project was filmed with the intention to use as a workshop tool to help children and young people who were survivors of abuse. Top of the Hill lyrics were based on a poem especially written by a young person who had survived abuse as a child. The song later appeared in this version in the musical GUV which went on to receive 4 star critical acclaim at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
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I Can't Believe
I Can’t Believe was written for the youth musical Dream A Dark Tear which was first performed by pupils on the specialist music scheme at Wells Cathedral School. The show went on to have a successful run in St Helier Jersey.
Dream A Dark Tear is a fictitious story of an internationally famous band who self destruct in the full glare of public view and scrutiny due to a scandal the band can't recover. I Can't Believe appears in the show at the height of the scandal as band members turn on each other, selling their inside stories to the highest bidders.
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I'll Give It All To You
I'll Give It All To You was written for the youth musical Dream A Dark Tear which was first performed by pupils on the specialist music scheme at Wells Cathedral School. The show went on to have a successful run in St Helier Jersey.
Dream A Dark Tear is a fictitious story of an internationally famous band who self destruct in the full glare of public view and scrutiny due to a scandal the band can't recover from. Through it all two of the band members despite the intense pressure stay true friends right to the very end despite everything. For one of these best friends their life draws to an end and I'll Give It All To You is a goodbye song from their greatest best friend still willing to give them all they have.
It Started With A Hum
Paul: What would you like me to play for you on Thursday Sue?
Sue: I like the shows anything from the shows
Paul: what about King and I?
Sue: that’s a lovely show
Paul: (embarrassed) my brains seized up Sue I can’t think of any of the songs …
Sue: no I can’t
Paul: What are we like! .. oh I know, how about I Could Have Danced All Night?
Sue: ( laughing) I can’t remember that song or any of the words
Paul: it’s ok I’ll hum it and you can hum along
I start to hum very roughly and then quickly Sue joined in snd proceeded to sing every single word of the song from beginning to end. Me? After first line I failed but I lalala along fascinated as I listened and watched Sue sing to me. Her face happy and her eye contact with sparkled. When she finished we bath laughed.
Paul: I thought you didn’t know any of the words?
Sue: Neither did I.
Paul: but you just sang every word and the right tune
Sue: … but I have a terrible voice now
Paul: no you don’t, it’s beautiful because you felt the music and lived the words.
Sue is not the only resident with dementia I have come across that can recall accurately and deliver a song.
How amazing is it this? Despite the onset of dementia where residents find it such a challenge to remember basics of their lives they can remember music and lyrics often years after not hearing the song let alone sing it. As I hummed that first line somewhere in Sue the sound of music connected deep with in her soul and then for the next few minutes she music transported Sue away into a beautiful space where music was speaking to and for her and she was feeling it’s emotion.
But there is more because what happened next was the song unlocked a whole set of memories for Sue, her brother playing the guitar, her dad playing piano in the front room in Birmingham and recalling herself singing with choirs. She recalled her sister working in a shop and their time living together in their twenties and what a wonderful sister she had been.
I Could Have Danced All Night has in its lyrics:
I could have spread my wings and done a thousand things
I've never done before
I'll never know what made it so exciting
Why all at once my heart took flight
As Sue sang those words I couldn’t help but think, looking at the joy in her eyes and her smile she was spreading her wings again and felt she could do a thousand things.
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30 years a go I was booked to play trumpet on the roof top of Bath Abbey on Christmas Day. Someone in a warm cosy vestry thought it would be a really good idea to have a fanfare at 9am on top of the Abbey to call the masses to celebrate just like Gabriel - except Gabriel always played the trumpet in the warm in a toga and had wings to fly if he fell off the roof. Alone on top of Bath Abbey I was freezing. All I could think was I could go horrible wrong in front of the masses gathered below. I am terrified of heights as I have the urge to jump (bizarre I know but I do) so I was thinking stay away from the edge but in a state of panic I needed to be at the edge to pick out among the hundreds of tiny people below a man in a blue duffle coat who was going to cue me to play, with a wave when I needed a flare. It then started to snow. Despite the Christmas card picture of snow flakes I could see across Bath I remember saying to myself 'why was 'no' such a difficult word for me to say when it's only two letters and this wasn't in the training manual on how to be a professional musician'.
Later that Christmas Day, as life had dealt me a bad card I found myself alone at Christmas so I travelled to my parents house arriving to the perfect Christmas kitchen scene of my dad making chestnut stuffing, peeling huge quantities of veg, drinking insane amounts of Bristol Cream Sherry and all to the backdrop of Herb Albert plays Christmas Carols Tijuana Style. Thrilled to see me he was full of how was the gig and amazing to be playing at Bath Abbey etc etc ... I moaned, complained and was full of woe is me. I was a trumpet playing Scrooge. My dad stopped peeling and drinking and said very calmly 'Paul, most people all their life live on the edge of their dreams' and then popped on cracker hat, carried on peeling, drinking and singing Hark the Herald Tijuana style. I went off to sulk muttering that to make matters worse I won't get paid by the Abbey for two months.
I never quite understood what he was truly saying until last Christmas when I visited my dad in a care home. My dad had written every day of his life since he was 11 poems, stories, anecdotes, sayings, diaries holding on to a dream for 80 years to see his writings published in a book. He was a supremely talented writer but had been a teacher and a head.
It was the first Christmas in his 90 years that he had not spent at home with family and he had dementia. For his Christmas present I gave him a book of 365 poems one for each day. These were poems he had written himself as a challenge set by my brother to write one every day for a year after suffering his stroke that led to his dementia. He found every sentence slow and painful to write but he did succeed in writing 365 poems. This book with the considerable help of a good friend we had it published and released for sale on Amazon.
He unwrapped my present still not totally sure who I was. When he saw the book he whooped in delight and said:
"Who wrote these poems?"
"You did" I replied
" Yes you"
" I don't remember"
... and now I understood what he truly meant 30 years ago Brussels sprout in one hand and sherry in the other. Even though I was alone, scared, miserable and freezing cold on top of Bath Abbey I wasn't on the edge of my dreams, sad, frustrated unable to jump I was living my dream to be playing music for my life. He had been on the edge of his dreams for 80 very long years, always hoping, praying but never had fortune allowed him to jump off the edge and fly. But now Gabriel finally came to my dads bedside, gave him wings and sounded the trumpet that his dream had arrived but in that moment of his dream finally coming true my dad had no idea that his long lonely wait was over he had made it.
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CANDLES IN THE RAIN
November Rain by Guns and Roses is a heart tugging rock ballad. In its lyrics are the poignant words;
Ooh, everybody needs some time on their own
Ooh, don't you know you need some time all alone
This rings true for everyone but no one wants to be lonely. There are still professional musicians with whom I work who can’t fathom why I would play music to residents at GCH. There are many reasons, some personal, others I've discovered along the way. One of the fundamental reasons why I love what I do at GCH is hidden in this Guns and Roses classic in the beautifully evocative lyric;
‘It’s hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain’
While at GCH I've had the privilege to see staff in all areas do everything possible for residents in caring or efficiently organising their stay, or making life safe and comfortable all in genuine warm friendship keeping at bay the inevitable loneliness of anyone of any age who has to go into care for however long. I’ve witnessed some extraordinarily heart warming moments made more remarkable because at the end of their long shifts the staff go home to carry on caring. This time it is for their own families, their own needs and somewhere, somehow, try and find valuable time alone having given of themselves all day. Giving is exhausting. Each and every day the staff hold a candle in the cold November rain for those in their care at times feeling lonely.
Music and particularly live music is a candle in the cold November rain. Recently I found myself singing along to the Beach Boys Good Vibrations in the shampoo aisle in Tescos. Then, in what felt like a lifetime, waiting on automated hold for an insurance quote humming along to ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ by D:Ream (yep seriously!) and in a local cafe tapping my feet to the addictive beat of ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. Why did I hum, tap and sing in such places without thinking? Because from Tesco, to insurers to local greasy spoon owners they all want me to forget for a minute that buying shampoo and conditioner is desperately dull and tedious, forget I’ve been holding on for a human being for 10 very long minutes and I really am happy, happy, happy eating what actually isn't very wise for my inners! Music hits deep even when we don’t realise it in a whole host of ways, it's all around us.
Music is the best at relieving the very difficult feelings of loneliness because music absorbs us in our own private world in an unseeing and untouchable way and without us having to worry what anyone thinks of us or having to explain our fears to anyone. We succumb to music's beautiful innocence because everybody on planet earth needs music at some time in their lives when troubled, when sad, when happy, when celebrating and never more so when lonely. Music evokes memories, some we thought we had lost, it inspires feelings and emotions that transports us away from however sad we may be even if it is just for a few priceless minutes.
Guns and Roses were right despite the harsh winter chill of loneliness we all have our candles to hold of dedicated carers, family, friends, a true love and always our music that speaks, guides, warms and lights our way however young or old we are. The last lyrics to this amazing song through music say it all:
So never mind the darkness, we still can find a way
'Cause nothin' lasts forever, even cold November rain.
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The Bridge Over Troubled Waters
March 17th 2023 three o’clock I’ll never forget it. A Thursday afternoon playing bedside music at GCH. On this particular afternoon many residents were out on a trip. It was dreary and raining. I ended up in Dennis’ room. I have played to Dennis many times in the day room. He loves music. He was sat in his arm chair. I propped myself on the end of his bed, guitar in hand. Dennis said it was too cold to go out on the trip. He was a bit fed up and that was why he was in his room. I said did he fancy a song and, as always, with a smile that gives you faith in humanity he said:
"Yes, what you got?"
"What do you want?"
"We could go on like this forever Paul you choose"
"I think you’ll know this one Dennis"- the biggest understatement of my entire life
I started playing Simon and Garfunkel’s classic Bridge Over Trouble Water. As always with Dennis he closed his eyes, living the music, until I got to the last verse.
Dennis, without opening his eyes, started to sing the last verse and well. Anyone who knows this song, knows it builds to the last chorus where Art Garfunkel sings a very high vocal line. What happened when Dennis and I reached this point I will never forget. As I sang the melody line sung by Paul Simon (because I cant sing the high part) I almost fell off the bed. Dennis started to sing the high Art Garfunkel line, beautifully, all the right notes, all in tune, musically and with such heart I could have sworn Art Garfunkel was in the ensuite bathroom! How on earth could Dennis know that high line so well and sing it!
When we finished I looked at Dennis and said "that was amazing Dennis" and in his wonderful unassuming way he said "haven’t heard it in years not sure where that came from".
"But Dennis you sang all the right notes how did you do that?"
"I used to sing. I really miss it"
We both sat quietly for what seemed an hour. He was in a world that only he knew his eyes still closed. This song had taken Dennis somewhere that really meant something. I looked at him and thought one day I am going to be like Dennis. My heart ached for him and me. Like Dennis, what ever 'it' is I will miss it because I too really love it. I'll miss the things I love to do, the people I love and even more the very very few who have loved me back. In that moment of silence with Dennis, his eyes still closed, I recalled in my teens how I used to listen to this song lying on my bed in the dark and what it would be like to have that one special person close. Its not too much to ask out of the billions on the planet to have one person you can truly trust, who, when I need them would be ‘sailing right behind’ when tears were in my eyes ‘they would dry them’, ‘when evening falls so hard’ they would comfort me, they would take my part ‘when darkness comes’ and like a bridge over trouble water they would ‘lay me down’.
Now years later here I was sitting lonely again but what was Dennis imagining? It felt like he knew exactly what I was feeling, he had been there. He was saying to me, it's going to be ok Paul, "I'm on your side when times get rough, and friends cant be found, like a bridge over trouble water I will ease your mind".
I stood up and Dennis opened his eyes and smiled. We shook hands. No words. None needed. We both knew.