#takeoneaday (for 10 weeks)
From Saturday 10 October 2020, and every day for ten weeks, Musicians in Healthcare from OPUS created specially recorded, short video performances.
These were shared across our Social Media channels, as well as on our dedicated page here. The benefits of these were felt by many, especially our colleagues working hard in healthcare settings during the COVID pandemic.
This programme was supported by funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund. Thanks to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for making this possible.
I Once Had A Sprig Of Thyme
Here is a traditional song given a new lilting feel. A reflective piece about our lives, the choices we make, and that funny way that time has a habit of disappearing from us all too quickly.
I have set the scene here with some traditional kitchenware and even found a sprig of thyme to put on the mantle.
I hope you enjoy its swaying vibe and may it help you to take time out of your busy day to pause a while and reflect on the good things.
The Raven's Rock
A beautiful relaxing 3-time traditional Irish tune to unwind to. Recorded on Alto Whistle reflecting the rugged and rocky Cornish coastline seen in the picture, possibly also in view of the Raven’s Rock. I came across this piece originally in a session at Cheltenham Festival many years ago and fell in love with its lilting feel straight away. Take time to relax and unwind whilst listening to this gentle tune wash over you and possibly take stock of the day thus far. I’ve really enjoyed playing this piece to patients, seeing the effects of relaxation and release wash over them, and look forward to playing it again soon.
Rolling To The Shore
A wistful piece about the passing of time, and how there can be beauty in this moment, right here, right now. I love the space between the notes in this piece. It can be so tempting to fill every silence, yet there is so much colour, so much life in the calm of the spaces in between.
Ayoo Same Sope
Ayoo Sama Sope is a beautiful lullaby from Senegal, passed onto me by Marianne Clarac from Musique & Sante in France during part of my training as a Musician in Healthcare. The words, in the Wolof language, tell the story of a little bird flying to its grandparents’ house.
I present it here, not initally as a lullaby, but in a more upbeat style, reflecting on the sometimes agitated state that really young patients can be in during medical interventions. The music usually has a calming, quitening effect on the patient, and calms sympathetically along with them, as demonstrated in this performance.
I hope you enjoy it. How does it make you feel?
I wrote this song on becoming a parent for the first time. It’s part of a collection of songs called ‘Drum Baby Sleep’. It’s offered here as a reflection on bedtime; how such an everyday ritual can be mundane and repetitive while also being a moment to demonstrate a deep and profound sense of care, connection and love for a child. I’m singing it here just 13 days after the birth of my second child, with my own as well as my children’s ‘bedtime’ often on my mind…
…“It’s bedtime that’s the best!”
The song style is influenced by Rumba Yambu from Havana, Cuba. The rhythm that I’m playing on the Cajón was taught to me by Santiago Garzon Rill ‘Chaguito’ and forms the basis for his style of playing Yambu.
A beautiful uplifting traditional morris dance tune here, played for my chickens, with some of the garden birds joining in in the background.
I love traditional tunes and I also love morris dancing, so this tune is very dear to my heart. For me, this piece represents the joy of summer with music and dance.
I do hope it brings a light and energetic lift to your day wherever you are.
Written during lockdown 2020 as a piece to give someone energy and drive to make the most of everyday, no matter what is thrown our way. Composed on Melodeon in the woods not far from home, given inspiration by all the trees, hedgerow, plants that are continuing to grow strong no matter what the weather. This piece was one of the first pieces that I recorded with a brass section to add extra impact and energy to the listener. It certainly seemed to make the birds sing along whilst recording it! Hopefully I will be able to play this piece as part of OPUS repertoire when we return back to our hospital environments.
Swedish Harvest Song
An old traditional melody from Sweden – sway along as the flax is gathered, carded and spun. I love how upbeat and happy this tune is – it makes me want to waltz around the room in circles as I play! I especially like playing it in Autumn, when the harvest would traditionally be gathered, shared and celebrated by the community.
Off To California
While I can usually be seen around the hospitals with my guitar (the clue is in the shirt), the bassoon is probably the instrument closest to my heart.
The bassoon is often called the 'joker of the orchestra' due to its colourful sound. The German name Fagotto (literally bundle of sticks) is also a little mean - the bassoon can really sing rather beautifully when it wants to!
This particular instrument travelled many miles with me during my European trips training as a Musician in Healthcare, having its own seat when travelling on a plane.
In this clip I'm playing with a traditional tune called Off To California, perhaps not helping the reputation of the instrument as the joker or clown. Oops. I hope it makes you smile.
This is another song from my ‘Drum Baby Sleep’ collection. It focuses on that feeling when for whatever reason we can’t just let ourselves go off to sleep. The intention behind the song, which is normally a lot longer, is to use the hypnotic repetitive nature of the rhythmic accompaniment to draw the attention of our minds away from whatever is keeping us awake into a place of surrender where we can let sleep wash over us.
My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose
This is a 1794 song usual in Scots dialect, by Robert Burns he based on traditional sources. Most of us know it, although we cannot say where we first heard it. A beautiful song of true love for all of time.
My husband had picked the roses as he trimmed the hedges in our garden this week, and they were so beautiful, they reminded me of this song, and how timeless it is.
I do hope you enjoy it. Do sing along or just close your eyes and drift away in a loving memory for a moment…
A fun bouncy folk tune with three parts and an upbeat groovy rhythmic nature to get you moving. Played here by Nick and Oli on Alto Whistles as a duet, one on the tune and one as a harmony. See if you can follow the tune!
When being introduced to the folk world as a child I got given a melodeon to try and Gallopede was one of the first tunes that I learnt to play. This tune takes me back to learning an instrument for the first time. I hope that when we play this tune on the wards, it inspires more children to take up an instrument and see the enjoyment and pleasure it brings.
We have used this piece to match children’s energy sometimes experienced on the wards and then played with the tempo, giving patients some autonomy through directing our music. Also, a great track to shake a shaker along with!
Floating On The Breeze
I was inspired to write this Clarinet piece whilst outside in the allotment section of our garden. I stood and watched the trees sway in the breeze with the clear blue sky as a backdrop behind and reflected on my breathing. With each inhale and exhale the branches of the silver birch seem to float on the breeze and so I started playing to the trees swaying motion. Why not see if you can do the same focussing on your own deep breathing in and out with these long smooth phrases, making you feel calm and safe in the natural world around us.
A swinging upbeat tune inspired by a beautiful Autumnal sunny day! I had great fun playing this, especially adding the Cha-Cha-Cha style swish on the strings! I hope this tune puts a smile on your face, and gets your fingers or toes tapping. No matter where this melody finds you, inside you can transport yourself to the deck of a cruise ship, your favourite holiday destination, or the best club in town – where will it take you today?
Da Bi Da Da etc...
We can only be in each setting for a limited amount of time, but we can leave music behind us within the patients, and the staff. One of the really lovely outcomes from our Music in Healthcare practice, is when staff join in, especially as they go about their work, carrying on our work long after we've moved on.
This song was written as a reflection on this aspect of our practice, on how healthcare staff often go about their practice with a renewed rhythm in their feet, and a heart full of song. We don't even need to know the words to sing along, and so while this song has a verse which perhaps tells the story of the impact that music can have, it is written with a chorus of Da bi da da etc…, words which are often heard from staff, relatives and patients as they join in, or carry on our music-making.
I hope the tune gets into your head, and sets you up with some Da Bi Da Da's for the rest of the day….
Maid And The Palmer
This is a folk melody which I’ve picked up from my OPUS colleague Sarah Matthews. I’ve always loved accompanying her fiddle playing on this tune with the Bodhrán (Irish Drum), so I decided to make a feature of the drum in this video placing it as the main instrument. I’ve played the tune on tenor ukulele and the chords on an eight-string tenor ukulele.
We tend to use this tune in hospital to brighten and energise spaces and people and likewise here, my intention is to offer the piece and the footage of it being played on a beautiful sunny morning in autumn, as something upbeat that will make you feel good!
Sunflowers are just so beautiful, aren’t they? This year I actually managed to grow one in my garden.
This song has been written full of the simplistic joy you feel when you look into a sunflower’s face.
It is designed to catch someone’s attention and brighten their day by being playful and fun. The stops and starts in the music are there to keep you engaged.
See if you can pick up the repeat lines and join in...
Having always written tunes and never a song, I was inspired to write a piece that would calm, sooth and relax babies in order to get them ready for sleep. Being a father of two young children, I can relate to parents need for babies and children to be calmed and soothed in order to sleep. This song is very close to my heart as I sing it to my children every night before bed and they have learnt the words too so we sing it together. I have played this song several times on the Neo-natal wards in the hospitals in which we work and seen the calming effects it has. I hope it brings some calm to your day too.
You, Me And The Harp Makes Three
A joyful song, celebrating our connection to one another through the bond of music… Music brings good cheer to one and all! I may be here, while you are there, but in sharing this song with you I can be there with you, and you can be here with me too. It’s a pleasure to meet you!
Often the healthcare situations we find ourselves working in are a hive of activity, with numerous people going about their many different roles in support of the patients and their familes/carers.
Despite this hustle bustle, there is always a wonderful air of calm, care and gentleness, something I have tried to portray in this semi-improvised piece on guitar and Low D whistle. I hope you enjoy it!
Washy Washy Washy
This song is a bath time favourite in our family. I wrote the verses in response to the chorus of the song which is by the great American folk singer Woody Guthrie. The original version of the song is from his album ‘Songs to grow on’. It’s offered here for fun and enjoyment and as a reminder that you can use pretty much anything as a drum!
Here is a cheeky little traditional seasonal jig for you today.
A friend of mine who plays the ‘Cello brought this to a musical session at my house many years ago and shared this tune. It sounded fabulous on her instrument.
Here it is played on the Viola with a Halloween-ish setting - I was given a pumpkin just the other day and it seemed appropriate! I’ve even added some spooky vocals and extra ghostly viola in at the background towards the end … see if you can hear them...
I hope you enjoy the impish nature of this piece and think of some fun spooky antics suitable for the time of year – Happy Autumn and Halloween everyone!
Orange In Bloom
This traditional Morris dance tune has been a favourite of mine for many years. Having Morris danced since I was 7 years old (and still do) this is a piece which I have known for many years. This tune is normally played in a slightly more upbeat and lively fashion for the dancers to dance to but hear I have used it as a reflective piece with long smooth phrases in order to enjoy the soothing chord progressions. Take time out of your day, if you can, for contemplation and thought in our busy everyday lives.
Smile In Your Sleep
This was one of the first pieces I learned as an OPUS musician, and it stayed with me. The slightly haunting melody, coupled with words of such hope and love make it a beautiful lullaby for someone of any age. I often play this piece during the reflection period in the hospital memorial services... The idea of peace and freedom found in sleep is so comforting.
Teddy Bear's Picnic
Inspired by the love shown for my last bassoon-playing contribution, I decided to share more of this characterful instrument with this timeless classic!
The tune was written (as Teddy Bears' Picnic) in 1907 by John Walter Bratton, but the lyrics we know today were not added until 1932 by Jimmy Kennedy. I think the tune is so well written, it tells the story without the words.
I was helped in the creation of the video by my children who chose which tedddies would 'star', and set up the 'picnic'.
I think this is one for everyone, of any age to enjoy!
Fil Et Bobine
I picked up this tune from musician James Tolhurst during his apprenticeship with OPUS. Thanks James! It’s a French tune traditionally played for dancing and I believe, usually played a lot more rapidly than I’m playing it here. In hospital we’ve found it to be a beautiful tune to play at much lower tempos, bringing calm and peace to places and situations.
I’ve presented it here with simultaneous close ups on melody and chords to give you the opportunity to disentangle them as you watch the same instrument play both parts. Being able to watch an instrument playing a part often helps me understand exactly what it is that a particular musician is doing and how that contributes to the whole piece. This can be a great thing to focus on when watching musical performances and it often keeps me coming back to videos of performances over and over again until I’ve cracked it!
WARNING: This video may potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.
A fanfare style Soprano Saxophone piece, inspired by fireworks on bonfire night. This melody was written to reflect the build-up and anticipation of rockets taking off and flying through the air, then lighting up the sky with a colourful explosion. See if you can guess when the rockets light up the sky.
Rockets have always been my favourite firework, and as a child I remember the fun we would have, watching them in the field as they set off through the sky.
This piece has been written with a joyful major introduction, then turning to a minor darker feel to reflect the different sorts of rocket fireworks seen on bonfire night. I hope you enjoy the colourful fireworks flashing in this rocket themed piece.
Songbirds In Autumn
A melody I wrote a few years ago for a family wedding, played here amongst the Autumn colours with the garden birds accompanying.
This is a lilting three-time piece with a gentle rocking feel to it.
I hope you can find space to relax and listen somewhere during your busy day. Take time to breathe in the fresh Autumn air in the sunshine.
During our Music in Healthcare practice, we love making music with patients. The favoured instrument for many patients to use is the Hapi Drum. It makes such a beautiful, rich, bell-like sound. We were delighted to be gifted one in memory of a very special patient, and we loved it so much we now have them to use in all our hospital settings.
We can't be in hospitals just at the moment to make music for and with patients, so here's a little improvisation on guitar and Hapi Drum, the latter played by my 9-year-old son. Hope it makes you Hapi!
My Dad passed away almost a year ago now, at a grand old age of 93. He was an inspiration to all who knew him, and as I play this piece, I find myself thinking of all the ways my life has been blessed by knowing him. I read recently that grieving is what love feels like after the person is gone. That really resonates with me. As we reflect today on those we have lost, let us bathe in the knowledge that what we are feeling, above all else, is love. I hope this piece gives you time to hold on to that feeling, and to remember the happiness those people brought to your life.
Feel And Be
Outside of my work as a musician in healthcare for the last eleven years, I’ve played in a band called The Last Pedestrians. I love playing with the people in the band and really miss playing to the audiences that regularly attends our gigs. Normally these two strands of my professional life are quite separate, but the #takeoneaday project and the complete cessation of being able to play live for people both in hospitals and gig venues for 7 months seems to be a good opportunity to bring these two strands together.
This video shows me playing and singing a song by the lead singer and songwriter of The Last Pedestrians, Harry Stephenson. I’m singing it from the cajón, which is the instrument I’d normally play this song on in the band, but not an instrument that it is ever really practical to play in hospital. I’ve added a ukulele and some backing vocals to the video to nudge it towards the full band sound that I’m used to hearing played with, although to my ears it really misses the contributions of the other band members!
In a time when so much of what we usually love to do, and that feeds our souls has vanished from our lives, for me this song is a beautifully written reminder that ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, can be enough if we put our attention in the right places.
Go To Sleep Little Baby
Here is a gentle sleepy piece I wrote after reflecting on OPUS’ practice in Neonatal settings, and the extraordinary amount of time spent by parents and staff to help their little babies feel safe and comfortable, so that they can relax and sleep, grow and strengthen.
It was written with a gentle rocking feel in mind, universally designed with a soporific lilt, in a major key to engender positivity and safe confidence. It was also written to include a section that focuses on the care-giver as well as the little one, as we all know, we cannot take care of others properly, if we do not first look after ourselves.
Try using it with someone you care for and see what effect it has for them, and you.
As part of OPUS’ practice we have worked on older people’s wards, dementia care and stroke units in the past. Having experienced a wealth of quality interactions on these wards with musical patients, I decided to write a reflective piece about good memories, recent or in the past and reflect on the importance of connection between friends and family.
This piece is intended to spark thoughts of patient’s musical memories, connecting their music to the people they care most about. Music is such a powerful tool that can bring people together and share the experience of simply listening to a tune or song or being embraced within it by playing an instrument or singing. I hope this piece inspires your creative side!
Two ancient instruments played together in this merry tune, inviting you to imagine the morning sun soaking into your skin to feel an inner glow of warmth. When I wrote this piece, I started with the drum, regular like a heartbeat. I allowed the melody to find it’s own path, fitting around the steady, pulsing drum. Sometimes I find the best flow in life comes from not trying too hard, and just following my own heartbeat.
Maid And The Palmer
An Alto Whistle duet from Nick and Oli, playing a folk and morris dance tune known under two titles. Oli learnt this tune to accompany to the Cotswold Morris Dance ‘Broad Cupid’ with Ripley Morris Men. Having danced Cotswold Morris from an early age this tune always takes Oli back to his childhood, growing up in the folk tradition and enjoying learning new dances and beginning to learn the Melodeon.
In this version we have added a light swing feel in order to bounce along or move about to (suitable for any age). We enjoy playing this toe tapping tune for patients in hospital, and also having a bounce along with them as well.
Wals Voor Polle
This is a melody from Belgium that I learnt from my OPUS colleague, Sarah Matthews. It’s a tune that for me has almost become synonymous with ‘Music in Healthcare’. It’s one that I love playing and has been with me throughout my development as a musician in hospital.
I played it at first on the bodhran, then a few years later learnt the chords on the ukulele and then it was the first melody that I got my fingers around on the ukulele. For this reason, I’ve decided to represent each part on the video simultaneously.
I created this multi-track recording on a sunny day in September to offer a track that can be appreciated for the beauty and simplicity of its melody, harmony and rhythm. During lockdown I’ve really missed playing this tune with my OPUS colleagues. It’s been fun to recreate it on my own but I’m looking forward to the next opportunity I get to play it with Sarah, Nick and Oli!
This particular place is a regular part of our dog walks. It's part of a beautiful, local trail, crossed at this point by the M1 motorway! I find the intersection of these two fascinating, a sharp meeting of nature and the man-made environment.
On family walks we always test out the acoustic under bridges, making whooping noises, singing and whistling. On this ocassion, along with the very patient dog, I also took my bassoon (much to the amusement of fellow walkers) to REALLY test out the acoustic.
This piece reflects on the treadmill of everyday life, accompanied by the rumble of the traffic above my head, and the beauty of spaces around us, if we only have the time to fully appreciate them.
This piece was written in 2017, after working on older people’s wards in hospital and reflecting on their pace of life and gentle responses they generally gave to the music we offered. It was written with long held notes and a lilting three time feel with room to relax and breathe calmly within it.
I start this piece here by looking towards a photo of my grandparents on their wedding day. They bought me my first violin and were generally very supportive and encouraging of me playing music. So as I play, I’m thinking about them and the people I have worked with more recently on the wards.
What will you reflect on as you listen and relax?
Too Windy For Sailing
A playful tune to make you smile and move to the music, written on a very windy day when I was hoping to go sailing on Carsington Water. However, the wind was so strong that no boats were allowed out. So I decided to go for a walk out in the Peak District instead, and composed this piece as I walked along (or got pushed along by the wind anyway!).
This bouncy and playful tune is great to move your body to and feel energised, watch out for the stops though! I enjoy playing this piece to my children as a musical statues game with making the stops longer and longer each time, great fun!
Ode To A Daytime Moon
Walking home from dropping my children at school, I spotted the moon, smiling down from a brilliant blue Autumn sky. I took up my harp, and this melody came from the strings. This is my ode to the Daytime Moon, a song of gratitude for passing safely through the night, and of appreciation at her remaining by my side into the daytime.
A simple, yet beautiful tune written by Johannes Brahms in 1868 for voice and piano. It's now well known as a sleepy lullaby, the melody instantly recognisable from many toys and musical mobiles.
I'm enjoying playing it here on piano, taking comfort in the relaxing nature of the melody, and giving it a very simple accompaniment. I'm sure that our associations with this piece help us to find it relaxing, however, the long, gentle phrases and tuneful repetition really help with this, and have made this one of our favourites for use in neonatal intensive care settings.
This is another song I’ve written as part of my ‘Drum Baby Sleep’ collection of songs. Working as a musician in healthcare I’m constantly amazed at the power of music to bring about profound transformations in us. We spend a significant amount of time in our practice bringing a sense of calm and relaxation to patients, carers and staff and we’re often able to use music to help induce sleep. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on and studying how musical elements influence consciousness and the ‘drum baby sleep’ collection is part of this reflective work. This piece has been written taken to account of specific musical elements such as tempo and rhythmic variability that work in combination with duration of a piece to slow down and calm the mind. It’s presented here in a muchabridged and slightly more lively (!) form for #takeoneaday.
The style in which I’m playing the ukulele and the use of the conga drum draw on my experiences of being percussionist as part of Más Y Más. Accompanying lead singer Rikki Thomas-Martínez’s guitar playing for nearly 20 years has significantly influenced my approach to ukulele… Thanks Rikki!
I hope you all enjoy this song (and that there’s enough of it) to take you to a place of calm and quiet in the night, where you can gently fall sleep!
This Won't Last Long
A song written in difficult times with a happy and positive theme about daring to be comforted that our current situation won’t endure forever – that there are brighter days ahead.
With a deliberately catchy chorus, I hope the words stay with you and help you to maintain a positive mental outlook in the present and through the weeks to come.
Whilst working on paediatric wards we have often seen the need for distraction or re-directed attention for patients, so I was inspired to write a new piece of music which would enable, aid and re-focus these situations. ‘Stop...Go!’ aims to give the impression of a game like quality that children may be able to direct the music and musicians (starting and stopping), in order to give them a degree of autonomy within hospital. Younger children and babies hopefully should be able to enjoy the stops in the music and surprise octave jumps to capture their attention.
This jazzy piece is intended to lift patient’s mood as it moves through to the final major section of the three-part piece, hopefully feeding their curiosity by the high notes at the end.
Using just five different notes, common in Eastern culture, this gentle piece encourages us to just breathe and be. Playing this piece is like a meditation for me, slowing me down, letting my mind focus purely on the strings and how they vibrate, transporting me away from the busy-ness going on around me.
My Grandfather's Clock
Following a request for this one on the bassoon, it seemed only appropriate to record it with not just one, but three fagotti and the addition of a 'clock' to keep me in time.
Knowing this one really well from my childhood, it felt very easy and natural to improvise the three parts. This is something we practice all the time within OPUS; knowing our extensive repertoire inside out gives us the flexibility to adpat our musical offer to the situation in which we find ourselves.
I hope you enjoy this one (I did), perhaps tick-tocking along with whatever you can find to hit, tap or shake. Make sure you watch right to the end though!
Land Of Dreams
Soporific is the word I’d use to describe what I hope the effect of this song will be on the listener. It’s purposefully repetitive and slow. It was written to address a specific need that we often encounter when working in hospitals; that of a baby, toddler or young child who can’t quite get to sleep but who really needs to. We’ve often found ourselves playing a gentle song or melody more and more slowly, more and more quietly, over and over again as a little one gradually drifts off into a long-awaited, much needed sleep. I wrote this song as part of my drum baby sleep collection of songs with exactly this scenario in mind.
It was surprisingly difficult to sing this song to a camera instead of to a tired child. Since starting this #takeoneaday series of videos I’ve been reminded over and over again how different our music making in hospital is to any other sort of performance I’ve ever been involved in. We normally have the opportunity to take the time to tune in to the person or space we are playing to, to really feel what is needed and appropriate. Without these cues I find it becomes really difficult to quite know how to deliver the song, with what intensity, at what volume and at what tempo. It’s a great illustration of what a huge impact the person we’re making music for/ with has on the music – even if they’re only involved to the extent that they’re falling asleep!
When trying to decide how to present this video, the weather forced me indoors, so I used a green screen that I had set up for some other filming work I’m doing. I chose the backgrounds as a reflection on how much beauty can be present in even the smallest area in which nature has taken hold. It’s so easy to miss the ‘tiny vistas’ when looking to be awed by nature!
I love this tune – it makes me smile and move when I play it, as you can see!
It is a lively bouncy mazurka dance tune that I learnt from Central France when I was there in 2018 at a traditional music and dance festival. I saw two female performers (Duo Rivaud Lacouchie) from the Limousin area on Melodeon and Fiddle playing traditional music from their region with such energy and verve! I bought their CD and learnt everything it had to offer.
I really hope it catches your attention and might change your mood, get your feet tapping and help to brighten your day.
A jazzy Clarinet ensemble piece to get the musical bones in your body awakened and ready for the day ahead. The catchy swing phrasing might bring a smile to your face and possibly instigate a finger or toe tapping along with the beat.
This piece was inspired by the English weather, and how sometimes when we’ve had rain for many days, an unexpected day of sunshine can re awaken the body and give us an extra dose of energy.
The intention behind this piece was to create an uplifting melody that people of any age could enjoy together whilst watching the finger work on the clarinet holes and keys. Maybe see how many clarinets you can hear?!
Doobie Doo Doo
This tune came to me as an homage to all those songs that we know we know, but just can’t recall the words just now! When that happens, you can’t beat joining in with a good ‘Doobie Doo Doo’! It’s great to know you can join in with no boundaries.
I hope this cheery tune gets you tapping along, and maybe even singing a few Doobie Doo Doos yourself!
The White Heron
Heading out for a walk, and with a tune in my head inspired a nearby stream, I fully intended to capture it on the alto whistle. As I got closer to the stream, a white heron (a little egret I think) caught my eye, setting off from a rock by the stream. It flew up, over my head and soared there for a while before landing in a field nearby.
I decided to borrow the heron's rock for a while, and the stream tune evolved into one inspired by the heron, no doubt disturbed by me as it tried to catch its breakfast.
I love that this patch of land has been reclaimed from being an open cast site only a few years ago, and is really starting to develop into a beautiful habitat. I hope that you enjoy the sound of the stream, and can imagine the heron in this piece.
5 O'Clock At The Swan
A lively duet for you today from Sarah and Richard.
The melody was written back in 2012 after a wonderful time in Sidmouth at the annual folk festival – lots of making music in sessions with friends and colleagues, usually around 5 O’clock in the afternoon – playing old traditional tunes and inspiring new ones to be written.
This tune reflects the energy given and gained in the connections we make in live music in the same room. Rich and I have tried to capture this, even though we were separated by a few days and in our own gardens in different towns!
I think you can hear the birds join in at one point!
I hope it makes you want to join in wherever you are today. Tap your feet – jump up on the beat if you feel able as we lift stick and bow off the instruments!
I wrote this song back in 2008 to be used for a comical moment in a stage version of Robin of Sherwood performed in Nottingham Theatre Royal. It has been on quite a journey since then though.
I read the lyrics again in 2015 when thinking about material I wanted to record with a trio that I work with, and saw a deeper connective meaning within.
This is a song about simply being there for somebody in whatever way you can. It is an interesting song to sing in these times of not actually being able to be physically present in someone else’s company. It is the musical equivalent of a hand to hold or a comforting hug. I am hoping that the music and lyrics here can bring you the feeling of support and kindness, even though we are not together right now...
A Fond Farewell
A reflective musical offering played on Alto Whistle and accompanied on Melodeon, to bid a fond farewell to someone or something. This may be a farewell to until next time we meet, reflecting on the good times shared, or simply a fond memory of someone special.
The gentle nature of this piece is intended to soothe and relax you as well as giving time and space in which to reflect on positive, happy and enjoyable fond memories that we can always carry.
Writing this piece for me, is a way of celebrating the Take One A Day project and looking back on fond memories of all the pieces that have been created since we began writing these musical offerings.
This project has given us all a wealth of new musical creations that I hope that we are able to share with patients as soon as it is safe for us to return to our partner hospitals.
Mazurka De St Pierre
I wrote this piece for two very close friends of mine for their wedding day. They love dancing and their favourite European dance style is the Mazurka. I played this for them in the church whilst they signed the register, and then again back at their house for them to dance to in the kitchen with all their friends and family around.
I have also used this piece many times as a Musician in Healthcare. The gentle lilting feel seems to soothe people and help them to relax. Sometimes mothers rock their babies gently off to sleep, at others it has helped people to let go of held tension and changed their mood slightly.
Played here with Mary, the two bowed strings come together musically, even though we are miles apart. A lovely chance for a rare collaboration on my favourite instruments.
I hope it has a relaxing and calming positive effect on your day today, wherever you are.
I started writing this song around the year 2002 and got stuck. It languished in a draw for many, many years until I heard reports from Sarah Matthews of an interview that her husband, Doug Eunson, had done for Radio Derby. One of the questions had been about why folk musicians so often had beards. His answer, ‘Well if you don’t have a go then how will you know just how long your beard’s going to grow?’ gave me the start I was looking for and from there the song almost wrote itself. So, thank you Doug! I hope you all enjoy the song and that you can relate to the sense of pensive pondering on the unfolding of a natural process, over which you have very little control, but to which you await the outcome with some degree of curiosity and interest.
The instruments I’m playing from left to right are 8 string ukulele, udu drum, triangle, basket shakers (Caxixi) and tenor ukulele. I’ve placed the triangle in the middle out of respect for an instrument that is much overlooked and can often be found languishing at the bottom of the school percussion trolley. Sadly, it’s sometimes seen as a joke instrument for people who don’t have any musical ability, but the triangle is a very versatile percussion instrument that sits in a very particular sonic space and is used to great effect across many genres of music. More triangles please!
Our music-making with patients often takes us on unique musical journeys, creating masterpieces together, using original combinations of instruments. The kalimba (thumb piano), resting on the guitar body for extra resonance is an instrument I often use on hospital wards, creating a warm sonic backdrop for others to 'create' alongside. I'm not sure it's ever been seen in combination with the basson, however.
Echoing the tonal pallet of the kalimba, the bassoon part in this piece is a free improvisation, but in this example accompanying the kalimba, rather than playing over it. It's truly reflective of the way we work in hospitals, where every instrument or musical contribution has an equal role in the creative process, and every person taking part is a musician.
I hope you enjoy this unusual musical combination!
Tar Viola Play
Back in 2017 I travelled to Santa Fe in New Mexico, USA to attend a ‘Drum Healing Live’ course with Jeff Strong. One of the many things that I was introduced to on this course were frame drums. Although I’ve played Bodhrán (Irish drum) for many years, and this is a frame drum, I’d never tried learning any of the finger techniques used for playing the frame drums found in the cultures of North Africa and The Middle East. Jeff inspired me and introduced me to some of the basics used to play these beautiful and powerful instruments. The instrument I’m playing here is called a ‘Tar’ and although I’m still in the foothills of studying the rhythms and techniques associated with it, I really love playing it and seeing where I end up.
This piece started with a video of me playing a simple improvisation on the Tar that I then sent to Sarah. She then played her Viola to this video, adding a beautiful melody that takes a short improvisation on a drum to a whole new level! I didn’t really have much of an idea of what I was going to play when I hit ‘record’ and I had literally no idea how Sarah would respond, so I hope you enjoy what came out and what we’ve managed to create between us!
My aged father told me a story last year of the day the end of the second world war was announced. He was out cycling that day, and suddenly all the churches across the valley began to peal their bells. It must have been an incredible sound after so long being silent. This joyful piece invokes how I imagine it must have felt at the time, and also makes me think of Christmas fast approaching, and a joyful time to come!
Sleep Little One Sleep
This is the last of the songs from ‘Drum Baby Sleep’ that I’ll be sharing as part of #takeoneaday and it was the first one I wrote for this collection of songs. It’s been a fun challenge to work out ways of presenting these without the full drum accompaniments that I’ve created for the songs in the studio. Going through the process of presenting them for #takeoneaday has given me the opportunity to explore and prepare all of these songs for use when we eventually get back into playing for children face to face in hospitals. I’m really looking forward to refining them more in response to the reactions of children and babies who need calming, soothing and lulling to sleep during their stay in the hospitals into which were all greatly missing bringing music.
Take Your Rest
As we head towards the end of this year, I find myself looking back in awe at everything we have all had to face, handle and overcome. We have discovered an inner strength we perhaps never knew we had, both as individuals and as communities. As the end of this unprecedented year comes into view, I now find myself longing for rest, and through this piece, I give myself permission to let go and relax. We hope that it also has the same effect for you; we’ve all earned it.
The Sky Stretches All The Way To You
I wrote this song specially for #takeoneaday, partly as a challenge to myself (I don't often write and present songs), but primarily as a reflection on current times and challenges.
As Musicians within OPUS, we dearly miss being able to make music alongside patients, their visitors and staff, and of course to make music together on a daily basis.
But even more so, I think we all miss the normality of human connection, with our families, with friends, and 'people who we long to hold so close'.
'The Sky Stretches All The Way To You' suggests a connection through shared experience, defying physical distance, and allowing us to be together again for a while through music.
It is a song of hope for better times ahead, and for a time when I'm sure we will all have an even greater appreciation for time spent with those we love and care for.
Here Is The Gift
Whilst on holiday in 2013, I wrote this piece about some of the aspects of OPUS’ practice in healthcare. It is interesting to reflect upon your work and then write a song with a verse taken for different aspects, people and settings connected to that role. I found it emotional to write, and I am often moved when I sing it, as the connections we make with the staff, patients and families can be deep, impacting and transformative at times, both for them and for me.
I have tried here to represent the work in the different instruments sitting alongside me, even though as colleagues, we cannot be together right now. I hope that you can connect in some way with our work, through this song, as you listen.
This Christmas song, by Puerto Rican singer / song writer José Feliciano, is a world-famous Christmas classic. It is one of the most played, downloaded and covered Christmas songs of all time. I played it a lot when I used to play congas with the Latin Trio, Más Y Más. I’ve chosen to record it as part of #takeoneaday as a fun Christmassy offering that reflects (and hopefully pays tribute to) what a huge influence Latin music and particularly Cuban music has been on my life. 20 years as percussionist with Más Y Más, my studies in Havana with Chaguito and other musicians out there, alongside years of playing with Simon and Dave in The Axis Percussion Trio, have very much shaped who I am as a musician. I’m really looking forward to being able to get together with my new band Lo-Ke-Ba, once we’re all free to meet again, to actually play some original Cuban influenced music with some great musicians, in person!
I’ve arranged this song using Cuban instruments; congas, bongos, campana and marimbula (bass thumb piano), along with the 8-string ukulele.
This video brings to an end my solo contributions for the #takeoneaday project. It’s been an amazing opportunity to reflect on the music I make in and outside of hospitals and to find ways of presenting this for all of you. As someone who has spent most of their performing life as part of bands or accompanying / duetting with other musicians, normally playing other people’s material, making 14 videos of myself playing to camera and sharing quite a bit of original material has been a real challenge, but one that I’ve greatly enjoyed and one that’s helped me to grow as a musician. It’s also been a great means of maintaining connections with friends and colleagues in hospital and beyond. Thank you to all of you for your support and encouragement throughout the project. We all look forward to playing for you in person sometime in the not too distant future!
Deck The Halls
A well-known Christmas tune arranged for Soprano Saxophone and Alto Saxophone (although you may hear more Saxophones if you listen carefully). It is played with a slower more classical style the first time through and increased levels of jazzy-ness each time through, to get you in the Christmas spirit. We have enjoyed played this tune on the paediatric wards in the past and also for the annual Christmas fayre at Royal Derby Hospital.
This tune was one of my favourite Christmas tunes as a school child playing Clarinet and Saxophone in bands and orchestras, and still makes me smile when I hear it today. I hope it brings a smile to your face too.
I Saw Three Ships
As we approach the longest night of year, I love to see all the lights up around our towns and villages. The feeling of cosiness and warmth they invoke are the perfect contrast to the potential gloom of these dark nights! It’s been quite a year, but the lights give me hope for good times to come. This Christmas tune always puts a smile on my face – I hope it does yours too!
Dong Dong Merrily On High
A lively upbeat Christmas tune with a folk influenced style to be enjoyed by all ages. This festive piece is played on the Melodeon, Fiddle, Guitar and Bodhran at different dynamics / volume each time through to add variety and hopefully inspire you to keep listening. Feel free to join in with the music, however you feel comfortable; sing the ‘gloria’ section (don’t forget a big breath before you start though!), or shake a shaker or other percussion instrument if you have any to hand, but watch out for the surprising stops (rests in the music) near the end!
Sarah, Oli, Rich and Nick
I Saw Three Ships / In Dulci Jubilo
Here is a new arrangement of two Christmas tunes in a jig time feel, played on duelling Alto Whistles, Fiddle and Bodhran. The rich harmonies in this Christmas piece make it an ideal piece to just sit back and listen to the variety of different sounds that you can hear. Each tune starts with both whistles being played in unison, defining the tune and underpinned by the Fiddle and Bodhran, before exploring harmonies on the subsequent times through. See if you can join in with us by tapping along to the rhythm, or maybe spot where the first tune ends and the second one begins.
Sarah, Oli, Rich and Nick
Relax and unwind whilst you listen to this gentle comforting Christmas tune. Let the sound wash over you and calm and sooth you, letting go of the day this far. Enjoy the melodies weaving in and out of each other played on Clarinet and Fiddle, whilst gently plucked Guitar strings and gentle Bodhran drum underpin the steady feel of the music. Maybe you might close your eyes for a while and just listen or simply concentrate on you breath, with deep breaths in and out.
Sarah, Oli, Rich and Nick
Probably the most popular, well-known Christmas Song out there, adored by little (and big) children of all ages everywhere, given an upbeat joyful jazzy feel to get you in that festive Christmas mood. Played here on Fiddle, Guitar, Bodhran, Soprano Saxophone and Vocals with a heavy dose of jingly cheer. Why not join in with our music by singing / humming / whistling the chorus or maybe seeing if you can find any sleigh bells to shake along with? (keys also work well as a good substitute!). Listen out for the change of feel on the last time through!
Sarah, Oli, Rich and Nick
A Song For Christmas
Our sincere thanks go out to the National Lottery Community Fund (Coronavirus Community Support Fund) for making this “Take One A Day (for 10 weeks)” project possible.
This project has been all about staying in touch, keeping connected, and supporting each other though we are apart. Thanks for being a part of it!
Here is a bonus track - A Song For Christmas of love and warmth and cheer.
It's been an incredible journey. We've learnt a lot and feel as if we have connected with many of you along the way. Please do let us know any thoughts or feelings that you have had in response to the music and the videos.
Lots of love and as merry-a-Christmas as you can muster!
Sarah, Mary, Oli, Richard and Nick
OPUS Musicians in Healthcare