Moving Culture

“Well I don’t know what the news was, but it must have been good” This comment gave me a moment of realisation today. Yes it did feel like a celebration right enough.

We were in the dining room at a Stornoway Care Home exploring cultural movement with residents. As the melodeon Danns an Rathaid tunes flowed, risqué lyrics were sung in the corner, shakers were jiggled, arms and bodies swayed, engaging smiles and giggles were in abundance.

Louise Davidson the dancer had previously commented on the lack of response to jazz music and accompanying movement. I knew, the response I got to melodeon tunes with: words, recognition, feet tapping and stories. So we were off on a journey with Louise the movement specialist and me with the dualchas giving me wings.

How deep is melodeon music in the psyche of Hebrideans of a certain age?

I had brought chiffon scarves in vivid colours, they became veils, beannags and rainbows. One lady wanted a big yellow bow on her walking cane. Another purple cloud was wrapped in a napkin and secreted away. At the end of today’s session I was delighted to watch a lady with a feather in her hair, two contrasting scarves tucked under her and the distinguishable tsh. tsh. of a shakey egg from the folds of her chair, as she was whisked back down the passage to her room.

Mental note to self. Order more chiffon scarves and more shakers.

Louise brought large vivid green feathers and one lady rose out of her chair on the far side of the room and crossed the circle to tickle me with her feather. Was this affection? The gentle feather caressing, of the hair of the person next to you, went round the circle, several times. Is this an underlying emotion with scant opportunities for expression?

The smaller feathers were hair pieces, greens, purples and blues, a fetching feature in the grey.

Keeping an eye on the clock I wondered how long the vibe could be kept up. It must be waning now, I thought .But half an hour later, we were still going. One and a half hours of tunes from Roddy MacDonald, fortunately it was his indefatigable CD Fasan a dh’fhalbh.

When I co-ordinated that particular CD production I just knew it was the product of a moment of time and that I had to save it for the future. Thank you for sharing the tunes in your own inimitable style, sir. So grateful for the mix of barn dances, highland schottische, Gaelic airs and Danns an Sabhal tunes you learned, passed down by those who played by ear. Every track has a distinctive Gàidhlig blas and Hebridean-style timing from the 1950s.

What a privilege today to bounce around a room where everyone was in the moment, recognition of the music which is part of who they are. The result was the open mirroring of movements, impromptu playful participation and the light of joy in their countenance.

A visitor joined us for the session and sat by her mum and sang along to all the songs and tunes today. Was this a lady who had sang to her children and was the bond strengthen by this sharing today?

This visitor commented “I have had such a terrific afternoon and I have never seen so many smiles and heard so much joyful laughter in sharing, before”

When we closed the door of the care home and braced ourselves further into hoods in the chilly November wind, I heard myself say “Where are we going next?” Like an adolescent on a night out not wanting the party to be over just yet.

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