Spotlight on…Ruth and Neil Hannah of Musical Memories

by Handymag

Ruth and Neil Hannah have been running Musical Memories since October 2015 and will be celebrating their 500th session in November this year. To date there have been over 9,000 attendances at their sessions. A remarkable achievement!

Music had been a big part of Ruth’s childhood with singalongs around the piano with her Dad, something that Ruth and Neil have continued to enjoy in their own family. The vast range of sheet music left to Ruth by her Dad included show tunes, standards, traditional, pop and folk songs. She knew it must be useful somehow and Musical Memories, a social enterprise providing fun singing sessions for older people, was born.

Studies into singing sessions for older people have shown that singing together can boost levels of immunity, reduce stress and improve mood and memory leading to a positive impact on overall health and wellbeing. Having experienced a session myself, they are joyful, relaxed and the perfect opportunity to get together in a social setting, reminisce, make new friends and sing!

The group has 90-minute sessions in Malton, Pickering, Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley with a 20-25 minute break in the middle for tea and a biscuit.

Ruth and Neil see themselves as facilitating rather than performing. “Singing together is really uplifting, but the songs also seem to set us off chatting, laughing and sharing stories so if there’s a hubbub in the room then we know that things are going well. People tell us that these sessions really make them feel good and we’ve seen lots of new friendships form and some old ones rekindled.”

Neil says that three main ideas combine to make Musical Memories sessions a success:

  • All songs are transposed down into a range that everyone can sing. As we get older, the range of our voices gets smaller so we transpose all of the songs down to make them easier to sing and accessible for everyone.
  • The stress of choosing songs is removed by randomly selecting songs using numbered balls in a bag. There are plenty of large print songbooks for everyone with Ruth’s Dad’s songs but also some more recent additions.
  • All attendees at sessions are given name badges to break down the barrier of not knowing someone. Our fantastic volunteers help make people feel at home and make refreshments.

Ruth and Neil are keen to stress that Musical Memories is totally inclusive. “It is definitely not just for people with dementia. We have always been keen for our sessions to be free from stress and worry. People can come and sing but they can also just come and listen and chat. There is no subscription and people don’t have to come every week.”

Musical Memories has also been involved with projects for York NHS Trust at Bridlington Hospital and Malton Hospital where they sang with older people in the wards. They also work with other local charities such as Ryedale Carers Resource and Next Steps.

Recently Musical Memories have been pleased to be awarded some Lottery funding from the Reaching Communities Award which focusses on projects that help with loneliness and isolation.

On 26th July Musical Memories will be holding their annual ‘Big Sing’ at The Milton Rooms in Malton.

Last year over 150 people came from all over Ryedale and further afield to sing wonderful uplifting songs from across the decades with a scrumptious afternoon tea.

If you would like the opportunity to sing or listen to music, chat and eat cake, why not go along to Musician Memories. Everyone is always welcome.

More information about Musical Memories can be found here… 

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