Newcastle upon Tyne

Your story

We perform free concerts in care homes, at weekends, throughout the year.

Group introduction

Semitones is a community orchestra, consisting of amateur musicians, of all ages and abilities. We enjoy playing music together and like to share our music with people in care homes who can not normally get out to listen to live music. We also invite family members and care staff. We usually play a collection of classical and popular music, including film music. We play every weekend, usually rehearsing for two weekends a month and performing for two. All our performances are free and only our conductor is paid. The group uses donations and small grants to pay for our conductor and buy sheet music.

We were established in 2009 and now consist of approximately 25 musicians, most of whom have been playing with Semitones for 7 years or more. We share the admin and organisation of Semitones between ourselves. We play approximately 25 concerts a year, usually there are 15-25 elderly people in the audience as well as staff and family members. We perform to about 500 elderly people each year.

We are committed to ensuring that our concerts are appropriate for our audiences and have used grant money to improve our performances. In the past we have applied for grants to employ a music therapist to help us more appropriately engage with our audiences; worked closely with a small number of homes, identifying exactly what residents wanted from us; trained homes to deliver music sessions themselves; and worked with a dementia specialist to identify exactly what works for people with dementia. We have also received dementia friends training. Following these pieces of work, we now hand out percussion instruments to our audiences, we have introduced more local ‘Geordie’ songs and include more joint singing, and have introduced more music from the 50s and 60s into our repertoire as we recognise that there are more people in our audiences who are in their 60s and 70s, possibly with young-onset dementia.

How would this funding have an impact on your community?

We would use this money to employ our conductor for 7 months, from January- July 2019. During this time, we would perform in 14 different care homes, to approximately 280 residents, 28 staff and 56 family members. Residents become very animated during our concerts and, if they are able, tell us how much they enjoy the music, especially when we play songs that they remember from the past. Care staff tell us that residents often continue singing songs after we have left. Family members tell us how much they enjoy coming to our concerts, seeing their relatives engaged and happy and joining in with the music. Homes contact us and ask that we return on at least an annual basis.

"I just wanted to express my thanks to the Semitones Orchestra for the delightful concert given at Abbeyfield House in Gosforth on Sunday 25th March.

The whole entertainment had obviously been very well thought out to include a variety of musical traditions and enjoyable participation for the residents.

I was visiting my father, who is 92, and is physically and mentally frail. Dad was a great singer in his time and, from youth, took part in amateur operatic performances and belonged to choirs. These days, however, he feels that his memory is letting him down, and he can become very frustrated and bewildered by his current circumstances.

The concert had a magical effect on him! It was absolutely lovely to see him, fully engaged, singing along and calling out answers to questions. He was very much ‘in the moment’, smiling and happy. I took some short videos of him participating and have been able to show other members of the family just how much he was engaged with the performance. Furthermore, members of the orchestra came to speak to him afterwards, and he was able to re-connect with someone he used to sing with and chat with him about happy times.

It is a wonderful thing that you do. Please convey my great thanks to the orchestra.

Quote from Beryl, daughter of resident in care home."

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