Harpist Delyth Jenkins has been a Music in Hospitals & Care musician since 2017, playing a mix of traditional Welsh music and her own compositions in a variety of settings.
We have recently been working with Delyth and Hywel Dda University Health Board to bring live music back into critical care at Glangwili, Withybush and Prince Philip Hospitals in South Wales for the first time since before the pandemic.
As musicians, our playing is informed and inspired by the listener’s response. Every response from a patient in critical care is really valuable and it’s so humbling to be back playing for them.
“The patients in critical care are seriously ill and their family and loved ones are feeling stressed and emotionally drained. The music helps to relieve that pain, whether it’s physical or emotional.
I play the Celtic harp, but I also have a smaller harp that I play in hospitals because I can be mobile and move from bed to bed. I try to introduce some familiar tunes. For example, if there was a man who sings in a male voice choir, I might play some Welsh hymns.
There is not always an obvious response to the music. Some of the patients might not be able to move or speak. For someone in this situation, their illness can sometimes make them feel locked into their bodies and the music is a way of helping them to escape.
It could be eyes opening, a foot moving in time to the music, the gesture of hands going to applaud, or it could be a smile.
I’ve had one member of staff say to me ‘it’s just lovely to hear something other than the continual bleeping of machines,’ and many others have said how soothing and relaxing they find the music.
I was playing at the bed of a man who was unconscious. He hadn’t spoken for over a week and his family were all gathered round. When I finished playing, he spoke. He said ‘that was beautiful,’ and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The family, me, and the staff as well, who were so surprised and delighted to see such a positive effect on the patient.
As musicians, our playing is informed and inspired by the listener’s response. I think this is particularly so with critical care. Every response from a patient here is really valuable and it’s so humbling to be back playing for them.”