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The MISA Choir At St. James’s

Co Author:
Dominic Campbell

Since January Dublin’s Culture Connects have been bringing some connective cultural medicine into the Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing (MISA) in St James’s Hospital. If you’re visiting on a Monday between 11 and 12 you’ll hear song drifting out from the Creative Ageing space between Reception and the café.

This project began with talk amongst South Central groups and council community teams where isolation and loneliness amongst older people in Dublin South Central was articulated as a growing concern. Dublin’s Culture Connects then set up an information exchange session last October in St James’s with community leaders and the staff in MISA, Ireland’s first dedicated centre for successful ageing, and the largest of its kind in Europe.

Roisin Nevin who co-ordinates the Creative Life space, and Mathew Gibb senior social worker, as well as psychiatrists and professors specializing in Alzheimer’s and dementia diagnosis met community leaders including Sister Bernadette who leads St Agnes Community Centre for Music and The Arts. We went on to meet the Age Friendly team at Dublin City Council. Gradually the idea of formed of starting a community choir in MISA.

Hospitals are not usually where you go to sing, but this might change. There’s an increasing amount of science recognizing the multiple health and wellbeing benefits of singing. Our choir are innovators, and this a prototype project taking small steps in that direction with the hospital community.

The backbone of the MISA Choir was formed by working with Sister Bernadette and her groups. This helped address the technical challenges of singing in hospital, and to work out the transport routes for people with mobility issues, or how we engaged with security and catering concerns. Then we extended an invitation more widely amongst the local community through Culture Connects teams, the cultural institution partners, IMMA and Chester Beatty who both run Azure programs. Our initial members were our greatest ambassadors.

The choir grew in size and strength. Norah Constance Walsh the choir leader sets the bar high which was key. She’s working to people’s strengths but just ahead of their comfort zone. Real learning takes place each week amidst the laughter, chatting, and the forging of new friendships

With the processes and a great group in place Roisin worked carefully with ward staff to identify interested patients who might benefit from joining, then to sensitively work through the logistics of helping people move from being a patient on a ward to a singer in the Creative Life Space.

Now there are a number of long term patients participating when they’re feeling up to it. Carers have started to arrange visiting time to coincide with choir practice noting that it’s more rewarding to sing with your love one than to sit watching telly feeling slightly helpless. Staff drop by to see what the noise is and the sterile ambience gets a little lighter on a Monday morning.

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To mark our fifth month and Bealtaine Festival we’re producing a little lunchtime concert. It’s a chance to show off and share. Hope you can come along on May 14th at 1.30pm for a look and a listen.

You might discover a new reason for a hospital visit. Music is marvelous medicine.

Join us for the lunchtime concert by our newly established MISA choir, ageing beautifully into the fun side of fifty. Beginning with St Agnes’s CCMA and community singers from across Dublin South Central the choir brings hospital and community together.

JOIN US for their debut performance under the leadership of choral leader Norah Constance Walsh. Dementia friendly event. Carers and families welcome with plenty of singing to top it all off! RSVP to info@dublinscultureconnects.ie or phone 01-222 6705

With the National Neighbourhood, we want every neighbourhood to know and “own” their city’s cultural resources so we build cultural projects in community settings. We connect artists, groups and villages with libraries, museums and creative places to deepen their understanding of each other and themselves.

The National Neighbourhood spans the Dublin City Council region, and brings together Dublin City Council’s City Library & Archive, the area offices, the City Arts Office and Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, in partnership with National Cultural Institutions (The Abbey Theatre, The National Museum of Ireland, The National Library of Ireland, The National Gallery of Ireland, The National Concert Hall, The Chester Beatty Library, The National Archives and The Irish Museum of Modern Art).

 

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