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Blog: Blog2

Opera-Tune Thoughts W2

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

Our second workshop at Belong Morris Feinmann was themed around family and love; two prominent messages in Gianni Schicchi. This week I was joined by Stephanie and Yuliya from the RNCM opera course, Susanna who was helping facilitate the workshop and pianist Celia.

We started the workshop off with some object handling, on each table there were objects from the RNCM prop store, the array was varied however all related in some way to family, passions or love. The group was encouraged to explore and think about the items, and the workshop facilitators guided this experience with some open ended questions. A particular favourite was the styrofoam potato and onion which looked very realistic until they were picked up, something that astonished and delighted many participants.

A wonderful array of props from the RNCM opera department that reflected domestic life, family, work and childhood.

We had a very moving performance of 'Oh Mio Babbino Caro' sung by Yuliya, which brought some participants to tears. We discussed the characters in the opera, and the main theme of family and love. Each participant was then given a hexagonal card tile with "love is..." written on it. They were given the freedom to write or draw whatever response they liked on their personal tile. While they drew, Celia played calming piano music which was a lovely way to engage people who were not wanting to participate in the craft activity. Through reflecting and creating, many residents wanted to share stories of their loved ones, their marriages, family or children. It was wonderful to see that the craft prompted shared and personal reflection. These hexagonal tiles fit together in a pattern, the idea behind them is that with each participant's hexagonal tile, a larger art work can be made, this will be gifted to Belong at the end of the workshop series.

Stephanie performed the Habanera from Carmen by Bizet, which was very familiar to several residents, the music engaged a person with advanced dementia in such a way that he began to sing the syncopated rhythm. Following her performance we gave everyone hand percussion instruments and taught them the rhythmic ostinato. Stephanie then sang the aria again, this time with all the participants joining in either with percussion instruments or clapping. Some people living with more advanced dementia were not able to clap, instead care staff and workshop facilitators tapped the rhythm on their hands to enhance their engagement. What was nice to see was that all residents, both those living with/without dementia enjoyed this participatory activity alike.

To end the workshop, as we do each week we had a sing-a-long activity. Stephanie and Yuliya each demonstrated their favourite warm up, which was mirrored by the group. We finished with a group singing session of 'Oh Mio Babbino Caro', with simplified English lyrics.

This week's workshop was once again very well attended and we had 23 residents and 3 care staff participate, once again their was an integration of the residents living with dementia and those who are not. This is wonderful as it encourages inclusion and breaks down the stigma which can be attached to dementia. The staff and volunteer facilitators commented that the creative activity opened up a lovely dialogue amongst the participants of their loved ones, families and marriages. The prop handling was also interesting for the group, and as they were laid out on the tables for the duration of the session, it was noted that participants wanted to go back to the objects throughout the workshop in their own time. In my opinion one of the best parts of the workshop was the interactive percussion activity along side the second performance of Carmen's Habanera. It was one of the activities that enabled all participants to be involved and a there was an inclusive feeling of enjoyment and engagement in the room. It was noted that residents appeared to be more energetic and spirited following this activity.

Next week I am looking forward to our third Opera-Tune Thoughts workshop. I will be joined by three more performing volunteers from the RNCM opera course, and we will be running a different variation of participatory activities with the group based around Gianni Schicchi and other operas.

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