Our history

One venue wrote to me and said ‘it was as if a light had been switched on in a dark place’ and that is what we are all trying to do and are achieving at Music in Hospitals & Care.

Some things have changed beyond recognition since Music in Hospitals & Care was first formed as The Council for Music in Hospitals in 1948, but the power of live music is as enduringly strong today as it has ever been. Take a look back at some significant moments in the charity’s history below…

Sheila McCreery, CMH Secretary 1948 – 1972


The Council for Music in Hospitals is launched.
Arts Council employee Sheila McCreery first conceives the idea of a project bringing live music into hospitals following the closure of the Entertainments National Services Association (ENSA) in 1946. ENSA had provided live music for wounded servicemen in military hospitals, and in 1947 Sheila organises a pilot project of 22 concerts. The first official meeting of the Council for Music in Hospitals (CMH) takes place the next year.


The Council for Music in Hospitals becomes a registered charity.
With Sheila as Secretary CMH goes from strength to strength, appointing Lord Harewood as President and expanding into more participatory hospital choir sessions. Access to new streams of income means CMH is able to provide concerts in a more diverse range of hospitals, and during the 1950s an average of 300 concerts are held each year.

An early CMH brochure

Quoted from a report at St James Hospital, Portsmouth

Therapeutic & wellbeing outcomes

Building on research into music for patients, CMH musicians begin staying for refreshments and chatting with the audience. Some hospitals experiment with more intimate performances for smaller groups. CMH becomes further established not as a provider of Music Therapy, but live music that seeks therapeutic and wellbeing outcomes.

Sir Steuart Wilson, CMH Vice President 1950 - 1966


Founding member Sir Steuart Wilson passes away.
As Vice President of CMH and Music Director of the Arts Council, Steuart has been a great champion for the benefits of live music and the charity is greatly saddened by his death. Towards the end of the 1960s, CMH comes into financial difficulty and concert numbers drop amid calls to modify the repertoire. Central Hospital Warwickwrites: ‘it would be preferable to have concerts more entertaining than cultural’.

The Council for Music in Hospitals Officers and Executive Committee of the 1960s

Sylvia Lindsay, CMH Secretary 1972 – 1992


Sylvia Lindsay becomes Secretary.
In 1972, after 25 years with CMH, Sheila steps down and Sylvia Lindsay takes over as Secretary, working from her dining room to book concerts. Fresh consultation with hospitals and doctors results in a revision of the ‘music policy’ to include new informal programmes such as jazz and popular music to connect with a wider range of the population. Sylvia also begins to expand the geographic offering of musicians.

A page from CMH’s progress report in 1977

A quote from Hydon Hill Care Home in Surrey for adults with physical disabilities

Moving forward

Improvements in care and treatment for mental health conditions and disabilities mean that people are no longer kept in long-term hospital care. CMH musicians are brought on board to provide a wider repertoire and the flexible approach to perform for groups in care homes as well as hospitals. A special grant is received from the Chase Charity for concerts in Leonard Cheshire homes and newly established hospices.


The first concerts take place in Scotland.
They prove so popular that the Scottish committee is established the following year. In 1984, CMH musicians do an introductory tour in and around Belfast. CMH begins offering a children’s programme in 1986 and by the end of the decade is providing up to 2,500 concerts a year at around 600 different healthcare venues, for both children and adults with a wide range of different disabilities and health conditions. Watch: CMH Scotland archive footage.

Dowager Duchess of Hamilton, Bruce Weatherstone and TV presenter Magnus Magnusson at the Edinburgh office opening.

The Council for Music in Hospitals logo, designed by Sylvia’s daughter Liz in 1987

Scotland Director Nella Kerr with Dame Evelyn Glennie when she became Vice President in 1990

Newspaper clipping from The Independent in December 1993


The Council for Music in Hospitals celebrates 50 years of live music in healthcare.
The charity develops more significant partnerships, including in Jersey and Guernsey with tours of hospitals and care homes. The first concerts take place in intensive care units and the ‘Friends’ scheme is launched, providing great new fundraising opportunities. Sylvia becomes President Emerita and her assistant Pam Smith takes over, developing CMH’s work with young people and programmes for people with Dementia. Bill Hyde sets up operations in Wales.

Programme for CMH’s 50th Anniversary Soiree event

Newspaper clipping from the Leatherhead Advertiser and Sylvia’s book ‘A Songbird for the Heart’

Music in Hospitals

After 51 years and over 35,000 concerts, CMH is renamed Music in Hospitals (MiH) in a rebrand that aims to refresh the charity as it moves into the 21st century. MiH Scotland celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2000, with many funding successes and rapid expansion of music delivery. Led by Nella Kerr and successive Chief Executives Alison Frazer and Florence Burke, concerts in Scotland form a vital part of the charity’s operations.

A message from new President Sir Thomas Allen and Chairman John Riley, MiH Annual Review 2005


MiH North office opens in Manchester.
New Chief Executive Diana Greenman (who has worked on the concerts team since 1986 and will lead the organisation through to 2012), brings the charity into its 60th year. Music in Hospitals celebrates in style with a Royal Gala Dinner in the presence of new Patron HRH the Duchess of Gloucester and a party for staff, musicians, volunteers and committee members.

Diana Greenman at MiH’s 60th birthday party

Extract from a blog post by next Chief Executive Steve Rowland-Jones in January 2014

In 2017 the charity is given a branding refresh and named Music in Hospitals & Care (MiHC) to better reflect the wide range of settings it delivers live music

MiHC’s first Scotland Director/President Emerita Nella Kerr celebrated her 90th birthday


70 years of joy through live music.
MiHC welcomes new UK-wide Chief Executive Barbara Osborne. The charity continues to go from strength to strength, delivering over 4,500 concerts annually and receiving support from a great community of volunteers, local committee members, ambassadors, President, Vice Presidents and Patrons. MiHC celebrates its 70th birthday with lots of campaigns and events, including engaging 70 choirs to help fundraise for the charity.

Pioneering projects

MiHC has developed two innovative approaches to bringing music into critical care wards that form an important part of its core delivery today. ICU Hear musicians visit Intensive Care and High Dependency Units to reimagine what can often be a very stressful soundscape with a unique musical intervention. Lullaby Hour brings gentle music to poorly infants and children, including in neonatal units where musicians play delicate sounds and melodies for unwell or premature babies and their parents.

Musician Holly Marland at Airedale General Hospital ICU

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