Colin Bryce

24th July 2023

Music in Hospitals & Care is celebrating 75 years of creating live music and human connection. Our musician, Colin Bryce reflects on his experiences.

It might sound a little out there to some but, for Colin Bryce, time travel exists – and it exists thanks to music. As a positive tool for mental health, a certain song or piece of music can pull you out of the present moment and take you somewhere entirely different. It can transport you to a loved one whose hand you have not held for years, but when that song plays, you’re right there holding that hand. It can take you back to a first date, a childhood game, the list is endless.

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Colin, a professional singer who has worked with Music in Hospitals & Care over the past 5 years, has seen the amazing, benefits of live music first hand. “In fact, I still marvel at just how cathartic hearing a certain song or simply being in a musical environment can be. I’m not just talking about the light relief of entertainment (something which I’m sure we can all relate to regardless of our state of health or age), but the catalyst it is for triggering memory and positive connection, especially for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

During a Music in Hospitals & Care live music experience, our musicians offer so much more than playing music. They spend time getting to know the people they’ll share their music with. And they chat with them, finding out about how the music made them feel or the memories it sparked. The contrast between this interaction and mid song is often night and day. People who may show minimal interest or ability to engage in conversation suddenly are singing along word for word. Staff comment that people they rarely, or never, get much engagement from seem to come alive when the music starts.

Not only is music a tool for engaging memory but it’s also one for people to simply feel and live in the moment, and sometimes it’s inspired by the least likely of songs. From having a boogie to Largo al Factotum by Rossini, a memory which to this day still makes Colin smile, to much more subtle reactions. An intro to a song bringing a small smile flickering onto someone’s face, or a pair of glazed over eyes suddenly sparkle, or sometimes, someone who has been uneasy and tense becomes still and their body finally relaxes.

A significant memory for Colin, was with the song On the Street Where You Live. He was sharing live music at a day centre and a lady in the front row had not engaged with anything, but after introducing My Fair Lady and beginning the song, she suddenly burst into I Could Have Danced All Night. This made for a quite chaotic two song duet for about 30 seconds, but Colin was struck by her intrinsic impulse to sing. She obviously had a strong association with that song. It meant something to her, so much so she had to sing. And who was Colin to stop her.

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How someone responds emotionally to any kind of music is down to them, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s an individual emotional journey. When planning a Music in Hospitals & Care live music experience, Colin often ensures there is a majority of upbeat numbers as it is important for people to have a good time. But he has come to learn that the more emotional, slower songs that invoke a tear or two are just as important for someone to experience. It helps people process. It’s healthy and Colin believes it’s necessary. The impact of music taps into something in our souls, “Sometimes it can beat a conversation” says Colin.

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