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Unique orchestral encounters for care homes this March

Orchestral players stand in the aisles around the audience, who all face the conductor in the distance, under the vaulted cieling of the cathedral

This month care home residents were immersed in the sounds of Beethoven, Messiaen and Mahler, as part of a collection of free events programmed especially for care homes.

Thanks to the support of Bristol Care Homes, Bristol Beacon joined forces with renowned ensembles Aurora Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra to present these unique musical experiences to residents.

LSO broadcast and musician visits

On Monday 13 March we joined forces with London Symphony Orchestra to live stream their performance at Bath Forum to care homes across the country.

Residents tuning in were welcomed to the stream by organist and journalist Oliver Condy, before being able to enjoy the performance of Messiaen’s L’ascension and Mahler’s epic Fourth Symphony.

On the morning of the concert residents of one care home, Katherine House in Westbury-on-Trym, enjoyed live music from two visiting LSO musicians who spent a few hours playing duets and solo pieces, as well as chatting to the residents.

A violinist and cellist perform for a room of older people sitting around tables
Photography by Chris Cooper/ ShotAway

It was very special because there’s been very little opportunity for residents to get out and get to concerts, so we enjoyed taking it to them.”

Amanda Truelove, LSO Cellist

A Concert for Care Homes with Aurora Orchestra

Last Wednesday, Bristol Beacon welcomed residents and staff from six care homes to Bristol Cathedral for a unique musical encounter with Aurora Orchestra, to celebrate care in Bristol with the generous support of Bristol Care Homes.

Residents from Quarry House, Glebe House, Beech House, Katherine House, Griffiths House and St Monica Trust were ushered into the spectacular space of Bristol Cathedral before being seated around the nave and welcomed by the Dean of Bristol and Geoff Crocker, Chair Of Bristol Care Homes.

A person in smart clothing leads older people down the aisle
Photo by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media
The Dean of Bristol Cathedral speaking amongst seated care homes residents with a warm expression on her face
Photo by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media

As Aurora’s conductor Nicholas Collon introduced the programme, orchestra players began to filter between and around the audience. 

A view down the centre of Bristol Cathedral with Aurora's conductor in the distance as the audience looks on
Photo by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media
Care home residents watch in the foreground as orchestra musicians walk in the background
Photo by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media

First to be performed was a world premiere of Héloise Werner’s for Mira. Delicate and meditative strains enveloped the audience, underneath which playerswhispers could be heard, weaving amongst the overlapping fragments of music that poignantly explored memory. 

Two care home residents look emotional with eyes closed as they listen to the orchestra
Photo by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media

Next, after a reshuffling of performers around the space came Beethoven’s mighty Fifth Symphony. As the iconic opening reverberated around the acoustic the urgency of the music was felt in full force thanks to the Orchestra’s trademark ability to play from memory. So too was sheer joy on display – the players swayed, smiled and almost seemed thrilled to be ‘jamming’ together; the audience visibly marvelled at the skill of the orchestra and immediacy of the music. 

Conductor Nicolas Collon has his arms wide in the air, with a look of concentration, surrounded by players and audience
Photo by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media

The ancient building’s height and resonance (I counted seven seconds’ reverb on a particular end-of-movement chord) made an already immersive experience overwhelming, as well as thrillingly loud. Tears were shed.”

Fiona Maddocks, reviewing for The Observer

A smiling musician holding a flute stands between a playing violinist, clarinettist and french horn player
Photography by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media

Between movements the musicians repositioned themselves so audience members could get up close to a different section of the orchestra such as strings, woodwind, or brass.

Someone had asked me if I had enjoyed it, but to me ‘enjoy’ was a small word because it was fantastic! For me the instrument became the person and the person became the instrument as if they were merged into one. I have never had an experience like this where the orchestra moved around the audience.”

June, resident at Quarry House

As the performance ended and applause broke out, emotional and appreciative expressions were exchanged, and the afterglow of shared experience felt by all. 

A row of care home residents and staff clap enthusiastically and exchange happy expressions with orchestral players in the background
Photo by Giulia Spadafora | Soul Media

It was powerful music and it was beautiful, I would love to go again.

Flo, resident at Glebe House

It was amazing and so lovely to see people enjoying themselves.

Pam, resident at Glebe House

It was wonderful, the lady by me playing the violin was brilliant and I had a chat with her afterwards. I told her it was not long enough and I could easily sit there all afternoon. I did not realise just how much effort had been put into it, I could not believe the standard of it.

Edna, resident at Quarry House

With thanks to Bristol Care Homes, St Monica’s Trust, the Grateful Society, the John James Bristol Foundation and the Anchor Society for supporting this programme. 


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