Music in Our Bones is a Suffolk-based charity that organises regular singing groups for the elderly and isolated members of their community. There are groups across Suffolk in Ipswich, Bury, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Stowmarket and more.
They also have specific groups aimed at particular members of the community, including women-only groups, groups for those who have suffered a stroke, or are living with dementia, and other long term physical conditions.
Tracy Sharp is one of three founders of the initiative and kindly agreed to lend us some of her time to talk more about Music in Our Bones and the work they do in Suffolk.
If I arrive feeling tired and down, I always leave feeling more awake and happy.Music in Our Bones Friend
How would you describe the work Music in Our Bones does?
We are a small local charity using singing – often harmony singing – as a tool to bring people together through music. To actually feel a sense of community in the singing. We try to reach people who don’t usually get the chance to get out much, either due to managing physical or mental health issues, loneliness, or who are going through tough times such as the loss of someone loved. We know it’s so easy to feel isolated as a family carer too, trying to be ‘strong’ for others.
We offer a musical space in which you can simply be yourself, no matter who you are or how you’re feeling. That’s what matters to everyone who sings with us.
We also deliver the sessions in a way that gets rid of the barriers that usually make so many of us feel we can’t sing. No music to ‘read’, no lyrics even, learning by ear, everyone in a circle, everyone an equal, supporting each other to learn songs simply by listening and then repeating lines together. People arrive thinking they ‘can’t’ sing and discover that ‘together’ they certainly CAN!
How many different groups are there – and who can attend them?
We currently have 8 singing communities in Suffolk. They are mainly open to anyone who loves music and singing and who feels they would love to try this approach. We have a specialist group for families managing life with dementia, another for stroke survivors and friends and one for women who feel most comfortable in an all-female setting.
You can find out more on the groups and where they meet on the Music in Our Bones website.
What kind of music do you sing at these sessions – do you practise the same songs every week or does it change often?
Each session stands alone as we are not a performance ‘choir’ at all. So whilst we return to favourite songs once learnt, there are always new songs at each session. Our songs tend to be easily learnt, the harmonies rather than lyrics adding the complexity. We draw from a wide range of traditions and often sing songs from other countries that are uplifting because they were sung by groups of people seeking change for the better.
Brilliant way to overcome feelings of depression and loneliness. Fantastic community event.Jackie
Do you have to be able to read music to attend?
No! We teach by ear with no lyric sheets or notes to learn.
What kind of benefits do your members get from attending a group session?
What keeps us going is positive feedback from our singers who tell us about:
Physical benefits – feedback suggests that after a sing with us people feel tension in their body reduces, their heart rate settles down, pain is lessened, sleep can be improved, and bodies feel ‘freed’.
Mental health benefits include reduced feelings of tension and stress and a profound sense of lifted spirits.
Some people singing with us also talk of a more spiritual sense of what the sessions offer them – a sense of unity and of peace in the music that takes them out from usual ways of experiencing the world.
The main things our friends say about Music in Our Bones is that they leave the sessions feeling uplifted and not as lonely as they did before.
It’s a great group to come to. With warm & friendly people to meet, you will always want to go back again & again!Emma
Are the groups open to friends and family?
Yes. Lots of our singers introduce friends and family, finding it a lovely way to spend time together on a regular basis. It’s a great equalising environment where carers and the cared-for are all enjoying the same activity.
How has the Coronavirus affected Music in Our Bones?
This virus has unfortunately meant the closing of our weekly and monthly singing groups, so we have been working hard to make sure we stay in touch and offer a singing lift to everyone who sings with us! We have been doing this in three ways:
- YouTube Singing Workshops – We have been using our singing leader time to create virtual singing workshops via YouTube for those with internet access, helping people to keep singing and stay connected with Music in Our Bones. Sound files are also sent out via emails and our facebook page.
- Recorded Sessions on CDs – We have also been recording sessions for those either not confident with, or without internet access to go out as CDs which we package up to send out by post to our singers. They can then listen and sing along either at home while dancing about or doing the chores or in the car! We have managed to do this almost fortnightly via YouTube and monthly by CD thanks to the work of our brilliant singing leaders and volunteers. The sessions include stress-relieving warm-ups as well as a mix of meditative and calming songs.
- Check-up Calls – We have been phoning everyone we sing with who we have a number for and finding out who within our groups are willing and able to provide further regular phone calls to our more isolated and lonely friends. Our new phone support volunteers have been offered some basic support and supervision and linked to those needing phone calls for a variety of different reasons which include those living alone, feeling isolated, stressed, bereaved or who those who might be managing illnesses or having to care for someone else.
We are working very hard on this network so that the confidentiality and wellbeing of all of our members is kept in mind whether they are providing or answering the calls.
Feedback from all our 8 groups has been hugely encouraging with people telling us about where they are listening to our music and how much they are appreciating the weekly chats with other members. One of our members described the heart-warming effect putting our CD had on his wife, who struggles with Lewy Body Dementia:
(She) immediately got up, went to the screen, said “oh hello hello!”, dragged her chair to be nearer the source of the sound and sang through the whole CD with me (her husband) joining in in the background.
This was such a great reaction to hear considering she is often quite agitated and is always wanting to go out.
You can find our YouTube Channel here.
Singing with Music in Our Bones helps you relax and forget the present worries and have fun and enjoyment.Brian
Is there anything that you’d like to add?
Yes! We would like to use this chance to say a huge thank you to our funders for their wholehearted support of our work. The Community Lottery, the Tudwick Foundation, Bury St Edmunds Councillors, and funds via the Suffolk Community Foundation have all allowed us to keep reaching out to everyone we sing with during the pandemic. A grant from the Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund that the Foundation also administers also swiftly saved the day by helping us to meet our increased costs.
If you think, once the COVID pandemic is over, that you might like to join one of our groups, just contact us to get put on our mailing list so that you know when and how we are going to start back.