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Observations placeholder

Music therapy - A Dream Wedding- a musical play by men and women with varying degrees of dementia and their care staff



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

From Community Music Therapy – edited by Mercedes Pavlicevic and Gary Ansdell

A Dream Wedding- a musical play by men and women with varying degrees of dementia and their care staff .  The performance begins.

The dining area of the day centre has been decorated beyond recognition with flowers and a glittering green backdrop. On stage, seated in a semi-circle o[two rows are the cast of 32; residents, care staff, the daughter of one of the residents and the music therapist. There is a buzz of excitement as the audience settle into their seats and the average age drops by about 20 years. Friends and relatives, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the performers arrive.

There are some loud shouts as a member of the audience, a resident with dementia, becomes distressed. John slowly gets up from his seat at the centre of the stage area and announces into the microphone:

 'Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.' There is a hush. 'Thank you for coming. You're all welcome.'

Applause. James begins to play Beautiful Dreamer on harmonica accompanied by the music therapist on piano. Whatever happens will happen...

The centre where this performance took place is in a deprived, multicultural area of north east London. It is run by the social services department. Within its walls are a residential home, a respite unit, a day care centre and an intermediate care unit. The latter opened recently in partnership with the local NHS Trust. The building is well-designed, light and spacious with outside sitting areas full of flowers and shrubs.

The day care centre caters for 25 people, many with dementia in mild to moderate stages and other difficulties of older age. These service users are still able to live at home with families or in 'supported' accommodation. Thirty-two residents are cared for in four units (one of which is the respite unit). They tend to be older, ages range from 70 to over 100, and many have more advanced dementia. The different areas, staffed by care staff and a small team of occupational, physio and speech therapists, are overseen by a manager and deputy managers.

The service users all come from the local area and the ethnic diversity of the wider community is reflected in the institution. Apart from various forms of dementia, a wide variety of other difficulties of later life include visual and hearing impairment, the effects of a stroke and Parkinson's disease.

To the continuing strains of Beautiful Dreamer (played by James on harmonica) Cinderella (played by Gladys who has learning difficulties) enters, sweeping the floor. Cinderella sings All I Want is a Room Somewhere and bemoans the fact that she has to do all this work and nobody loves her.

What she'd really like is Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. A Fairy Godmother (Denise, daughter of resident, Louise) appears and says she will take her off to Dreamland where she might meet him. The whole cast sing Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland while several couples from the cast come forward and waltz to the music. Cinderella is whisked away by her Fairy Godmother and Jane (who is 95) sings a solo of the Everley Brothers song Dream, Dream, Dream, performed with a group of six care staff. All but one of them are African Caribbean. Jane has lived in Hackney all her life.

Music therapy is the only arts therapy currently on offer, extended from one to two days in a funding and training partnership with the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre. Music therapy sessions generally take place in a small activity room designated for music therapy with an upright piano and a good variety of percussion instruments. There is another piano in a more public place where we have regular open groups.

The source of the experience

Healer other

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps


Music therapy