OPUS Music CIC Logo in White


Tuesday 15th Jan – Winding the Bobbin Up

A very busy day in hospital and so many potential reports to write…….so I shall choose one scenario from our afternoon visit to intensive care.

I was working with Richard today and our short-term placement student, Sarah Steenson. We were invited in to meet a very enthusiastic and welcoming staff and a very full room – I think every bed was taken.

We began with ‘Off to California’ and played to a familiar family in a private room. Then ‘Out on the Streets there is Sunshine’ as we moved down the room. We came to a young girl, slightly sitting up in her bed, looking fairly subdued and quiet. We were still playing the same song at this time, and had begun leaving a 3 beat space. Our young observer decided it was time to join in and waved her left hand in time with the missing 3 notes. This developed into 3 claps the next time round. After a little consideration I invited her to use both arms for ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’.

We played and sang through the song a few times and towards the end she was wriggling in bed, leaning away from her pillow, doing all the actions, smiling, and making those around her smile and laugh.

Richard said later that day, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to tears with Wind the Bobbin up before’!

Friday 11th Jan

Friday’s visit to hospital allowed us to visit a young man in his teens with special needs.

We began with ‘Zamina’ and played to him a few times through. The Play Specialist stayed with us the whole time and produced from the music box, a few different hand held instruments for the patient to try…a few different shakers and the bell stick. He spent some minutes investigating these sounds and playing with the music and testing out some different tempos and volumes.

The xylophone was then offered to try. His Dad told us that his son used to play the drums a lot at home. The patient soon showed us that he already had his own technique for holding 1 or 2 beaters. He demonstrated choice of note pitches, speed of playing, styles of playing and at times there was interaction between him and us and he engaged with our music as part of what he was doing. Mostly though, he seemed to be envigorated by the whole activity.

His father and the Play Specialist commented that he had not been very active or energetic since arriving in hospital that week and that this was the most energised and happy he had been. During the course of the session he had gone from a stretched out lying down position (watching the TV upside down from bed), to more upright, to leaning on one arm, and then finally sat right up vertically (sorting his legs so they were crossed in front of him and he could fully see what he was doing, see us and use both hands with the beaters for the instrument). He appeared to have completely changed his mood.

We left him playing the Xylophone with his father and the Play Specialist said she would call in and collect the instrument later when he had finished.

As we moved down the corridor playing and singing with other patients, we could still hear this young man making music.

A Good Musical Experience – Wednesday 21st Nov 2012

Nick and I began playing in the Sunflower waiting area – three children aged around 8 years of age were waiting, a little bored, and seemed eager to join in.

We sat down and played a tune for them to listen to – they gathered round immediately – Nick began to give out percussion instruments.

We turned to Gallopede (one of our favourites for facilitating participation). Each child joined in with their own rhythmical pattern with the music – Nick led them for a while and showed a slightly more complex patttern to try.

We changed the dynamics – we led – they led.

The tempo changed – with different leaders here again.

Nick tried a different style – could we slow things down and change the mood with a waltz? We played Valse vor Polle – and the children changed what they were doing and matched the style.

Finally our musical friends found our box of musical instruments and had a little session exploring some of the sounds that could be made on each of them – including trying out my violin and bow.

I felt that the interaction had been successful and complete, and thought it best to start packing the instruments away, with their help. It is always good to have a thought for when a session should finish – before anyone gets overexcited – end with positive experiences.

This felt like a really good all-round musical experience and it appeared as though the children involved had really been engaged and enjoyed it for about 20 minutes.


Chickens and Frogs

On 7th Oct, as part of our usual Wednesday work around Puffin Ward in Derby Children’s Hospital, we overheard a young boy in isolation, crying and thoroughly focussed on the marks that appeared to cover his body, itching and quite distressing him. He had toys all over his bed that seemd to be new – still to be unwrapped – but not distracting him from his discomfort.

We started playing an upbeat version of the “Valse vor Polle”, in 4 time – this did not seem to connect with him. Richard suggested we play something different – something with a gap in it…….an interesting suggestion – why would the space in the music grab someone’s attention more than continuous sound?

We started to play “Who stole my chickens and my hens?” leaving a rest in the music after each line of question in the song. After about the second time, he turned to look at us playing through the doorway. Still crying, but with gaps in his noise now, so he could hear when the music continued. Slowly but surely, his crying sounds resided and he started talking to his Mum about tthe chickens in the song – what a silly song!

There came a request – something about a frog? Nick fetched our speckled frog guiro instrument and we started playing and singing “Five Little Speckled Frogs”. We had only got as far as frog number 3, and he was smiling and opening his new toys, calmly and more relaxed.

We left them smiling, playing with new toys, and with their atmosphere changed at least for the time being. It appeared as though this young man was sufffereing with chicken pox, and we had sung songs about speckled things and chickens – only we saw the funny side to this – he did not notice at all, but seemed to benefit from the change in his day.


Tuesday 25th Sept at Leicester Children’s Hospital

All three Opus musicians were present in Leicester Hospital for this morning – we had a very positive training session for an hour with staff, who engaged and came up with brilliant ideas and went forth to find many great resources we could all use in our musical play work together.

The latter part of the morning was spent in Ward 11. We played for patients recovering from operations, and then moved through to the day treatment waiting area.

We were then specifically asked by staff to go and play for one young lady who was a teenager, with autistic tendancies, waiting in another area because that area was too busy for her to be comfortable. We entered her room gently playing a positive major tune on fiddle, guitar and bodhran. She seemed to calm and engaged with us easily and quickly. She smiled and began moving gently with the music. I stopped playing the tune and started humming the melody whilst I found her a hand-held drum so she could join in with us. She seemed delighted with this and displyed a broad smile. She used her voice also singing along with us.

We played together for about 3 or 4 minutes and then we all seemed to come to a natural finish. She appeared pleased and calm, and the specialist was ready to see her, so we made our exit.

Later that day, her Mum posted comments to indicate how delighted she and her daughter had been with the music, and how much it had relaxed both of them and set the tone for the rest of their day there.

Friday 20th July

We began our morning’s work in the Sunflower Ward, as has been our habit for the last few weeks. We trialled a new tune “Astley’s Ride” which worked well in 4 time with the potential for patients to join in and turned into a waltz quite easily too – much to explore with that one in the future?

We entered the post / pre op ward behind the reception area with some caution. A young boy was being asked to take some medicine by his father, and he appeared worried about this prospect. A mother lay curled up in a chair, waiting for the return of her child. A three-year-old girl sat with her mother, obviously distressed and possibly feeling sick. Another little girl sat with her parents at the end of the room, and a teenaged girl lay apparently sleeping. This was quite an array of different situations presenting themselves at the same time in the one room, so some careful consideration was needed as to what music to play and with what character and volume.

We chose “Mari’s Wedding”, normally a jolly polka, but we started it as a relaxed and calm waltz, knowing that if the mood required it we could pick up the pace and change the dynamics according to the space. We played around the tune and improvised the melody and structure about 5 times as we slowly moved down the room. However, it did not seem appropriate to change the tempo and mood, so we remained in three time.

The little girl at the end of the room with her parents engaged with us and locked an intrigued stare with me as i played the piece and moved towards her, the teenager awoke slightly and lay in bed listening. The little boy relaxed and took his medicine and found something else to play with. The distressed little girl cried more, cuddled with her mother, relaxed and almost drifted off to sleep by the time we left the room.

It was only a matter of minutes that we were in that space, but it felt as though our music had provided an opportunity for the mood of the whole room to transition from distressed to relaxed; from unrest to calm. Hard to quantify something like this, but I was moved to tears on exiting the room.

Friday 29th June work at Derby Children’s Hospital

First thing in the morning, and Rich and I found ourselves starting our musical day as a duo this week – five string fiddle, voices, bodhran and ukelele. We began by playing in the open waiting room area of Sunflower Ward, where there were some staff and parents and grand parents conversing in sign. We played for a while, assessing the potential for moving into one of the pre/post op wards next door. After that piece we moved into one of these wards to play for two families waiting with young people in bed – there was much tapping of toes and nodding in approval of our music. Just when we thought we would end our Sunshine song and move on, a younger child returned from a procedure upset and crying, changing the mood on the ward completely. Rich and I matched the volume of the child and continued playing – the child connected with our music within 30 seconds and began to calm – there was good eye contact and visible relaxation of the patient and we then brought the volume and pace of our music down to take the mood to an even more relaxed state. Eyes began to close and parent and grandparents thanked us for being there – quite a special few moments!

What we did on our Friday….

Friday 11th May 2012
Sunflower Ward (an open waiting area upstairs with day surgery waiting and recovery areas on each side) – quite quiet today, but started in the day surgery area – one little girl rocking with her Mum in time with the music, did not need any more engagement than that – 2 little babies in and out with parents and a few attending physicians and nursing staff joining in with “Wind the Bobbin Up” and discussing the song with each other. Other ward quiet – played “for” mostly here – sleepy patients.

Lobsters (an area with 3 rooms each with about 4 beds in just next to Sunflower)– 2 teenaged boys with Mums – one eating and looking tired and not engaging much but listening – the other turned out to be a ballet and contemporary dancer – has played violin and guitar also – joined us in percussion – nice discussion about his dancing and musical life – Mum also played shaker with us and told us she is a flautist when she has time.

Foyer to the Hospital (a large waiting area downstairs – the main way into the Children’s Hospital) – discussed the uninspiring nature of this area to play in – performance of “Five O’Clock” before cup of tea break.

Pink Room (large waiting area downstairs) – not occupied by many

Green Room (same sized area further down the corridor) – nice improvisation for a toddler learning to walk and having fun following Dad backwards and forwards – Played “Match of the Day” for two people at the football table – the passing Physiotherapists were impressed with the tune and requested Ski Sunday theme tune and Cricket theme – also stated not too loud and no more noise near their working door.

ICU (upstairs in Children’s Hospital) – played for a 2 year old and a little baby for short time

Shrimps (baby ward on the upstairs Puffin Ward) – lovely interaction and eye contact from little baby and sister – transfixed on me and the viola for many times round the musical piece the Mazurka de St Pierre – latterly a lovely mesage from the family thanking the doctors, nurses and musicians.

NICU – worked through from littlest ones, to the eldest – Bb major improvisation pizzicato Viola, Guita and Bodhran and the machines – hypnotic and trance-like – the Doctor on duty took some film of our work near the incubators.

Sarah Matthews