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.

Many things have changed since Music in Hospitals & Care started out as The Council for Music in Hospitals in 1948. But the power of live music is as strong today as it has ever been. Take a look back at some important moments in our history.

Sheila McCreery, CMH Secretary 1948 – 1972


The Council for Music in Hospitals is launched.
Arts Council employee Sheila McCreery has a great idea – to share live music in hospitals following the closure of the Entertainments National Services Association (ENSA) in 1946. ENSA shared live music with wounded service people in military hospitals. In 1947, Sheila arranges 22 live music concerts. The Council for Music in Hospitals is established in 1948.


The Council for Music in Hospitals becomes a registered charity.
With Sheila as Secretary, the Council for Music in Hospitals goes from strength to strength, appointing Lord Harewood as President and expanding with hospital choir sessions. With more funding, the Council for Music in Hospitals is able to provide live music in a diverse range of hospitals. During the 1950s, around 300 concerts were shared each year.

An early Council for Music in Hospitals brochure

Quoted from a report at St James Hospital, Portsmouth

Health and wellbeing benefits

Building on research into the benefits of live music for people in hospitals, the Council for Music in Hospitals musicians begin to stay for refreshments and to chat with their audience. Some hospitals experiment with more intimate live music experiences for smaller groups. The Council for Music in Hospitals becomes more established as a provider of live music that has health and wellbeing benefits.

Sir Steuart Wilson, Council for Music in Hospitals Vice President 1950 - 1966


Founding member Sir Steuart Wilson passes away.
As Vice President of the Council for Music in Hospitals and Music Director of the Arts Council and later the BBC, 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, the Council for Music in Hospitals comes into financial difficulty and concert numbers drop. A staff member at Central Hospital Warwick writes: “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, Council for Music in Hospitals Secretary 1972 – 1992


Sylvia Lindsay becomes Secretary.
In 1972, after 25 years with the Council for Music in Hospitals, Sheila steps down and Sylvia Lindsay takes over as Secretary, working from her dining room to arrange live music. After consulting hospital staff and doctors, the charity’s ‘music policy’ is revised to include more informal music. This includes jazz and popular music so that musicians can connect with a wider range of people. Sylvia also begins to expand our live music programme across the UK.

A page from Council for Music in Hospitals' 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 and disabilities mean that people are no longer kept in long-term hospital care. More Council for Music in Hospitals musicians are brought on board to provide a wider repertoire and to perform for people in care homes as well as hospitals. A special grant is received from the Chase Charity for live music 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. Then, in 1984, Council for Music in Hospitals musicians go on an introductory tour in and around Belfast.

The Council for Music in Hospitals begins to share live music with children in 1986. By the end of the decade, the charity is sharing up to 2,500 concerts a year at around 600 different healthcare settings. These are for children and adults with a wide range of disabilities and health conditions. Watch: Council for Music in Hospitals Scotland archive footage.

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

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. Live music takes place in intensive care units and the ‘Friends’ scheme for committed supporters is launched, providing great new fundraising opportunities.

Sylvia becomes President Emerita and her assistant Pam Smith takes over. Pam develops the Council for Music in Hospitals’ work with young people and those living with dementia. We start to share live music in Wales, led by staff member Bill Hyde who sets up our office there from his home in South Wales.

Programme from the Council for Music in Hospitals' 50th Anniversary 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, the Council for Music in Hospitals is renamed Music in Hospitals. The rebrand aims to refresh the charity as it moves into the 21st century. In 2000, Music in Hospitals celebrates 20 years of working in Scotland with successful fundraising and rapid expansion. Led by Nella Kerr and successive Chief Executives Alison Frazer and Florence Burke, live music in Scotland become a vital part of the charity’s operations.

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


Music in Hospitals opens an office in Manchester.
New Chief Executive Diana Greenman (who 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 Music in Hospitals' 60th birthday party

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

In 2017, the charity changes its name to Music in Hospitals & Care to better reflect the places where it now shares live music.

Music in Hospitals & Care’s first Scotland Director and President Emerita Nella Kerr celebrated her 90th birthday the same year


70 years of joy through live music.
Music in Hospitals & Care welcomes new UK-wide Chief Executive Barbara Osborne. The charity continues to go from strength to strength, sharing over 4,500 live music experiences annually thanks to amazing supporters, volunteers and a committed President, Vice Presidents and Patrons. The charity celebrates its 70th birthday with lots of campaigns and events, including one with 70 choirs who help fundraise for the charity.

Pioneering projects

Music in Hospitals & Care develops two innovative approaches to sharing music with people who are seriously ill in critical care wards. ICU Hear® musicians play gentle, calming music at people’s bedsides, helping to reduce stress and anxiety and creating a relaxing atmosphere in a noisy and hectic environment.

Lullaby Hour musicians also share the healing power of live music with babies and children in hospitals and hospices. They perform gentle songs and melodies which soothe children, and give family members a chance to smile and relax during an exceptionally difficult time in their lives.

Musician Holly Marland at Airedale General Hospital ICU


Improving people’s wellbeing with #MusicEveryDay.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Music in Hospitals & Care moves online to share the healing power of live music with the people we support when meeting face to face isn’t possible. Our online programme #MusicEveryDay helps live music become a part of people’s wellbeing routine. Personal and interactive, our professional musicians continue to offer live music which stays true to what makes us special. We reach 47,660 people through online music over 18 months.

Celebrating 75 years

In 2023 Music in Hospitals & Care celebrates its 75th anniversary and the diverse community that is at the heart of the charity. Special events throughout the live music programme recognise both long standing and newer partnerships to commemorate where the charity has been and look ahead to where it is going next.

The year’s activities will build towards 13 November, the date of the first meeting in 1947 that led to the creation of the charity the following year. Find out more and how you can get involved.

Make a donation

Please give today to help improve the health and wellbeing of children and adults through the healing power of live music.