Professional Musician Phoebe Gorry reflects on a live music experience she will never forget at Southampton General Hospital, where she met 10-year-old Sarah.
Sarah’s mum said that it was the most stimulated she had seen her daughter for weeks. The experience really demonstrated the power of music as a therapeutic tool.
“I was singing with an acoustic guitarist and it was our first time performing on the children’s ward at Southampton. We had prepared a varied repertoire, from classic nursery rhymes like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’, to pop songs by Justin Bieber. We were expecting to perform for a range of ages, from 0 to 17, chaperoned around a series of different wards to visit children with different health needs.
A nurse asked us if we could spare 10 minutes to visit the private room where Sarah was.
The mood in the room was sombre. Sarah was in a state of deep sleep when I arrived. She had been like that for a considerable amount of time, and her mum and sister were at her bedside.
Sarah’s mum told us that she loved music and asked if we could play something lively, like Pharrell Williams or Jessie J. We decided to play ‘Happy’ by Pharrell, as it has positive lyrics, high energy and a simple melody that’s easy to sing along to.
As I began to sing, Sarah opened her eyes and seemed to be listening. She wasn’t able to move or respond, but this small reaction seemed like a milestone and her mum became very emotional.
We were all very moved by this moment and I found it difficult to hold back tears. We continued to perform though. We performed ‘Shake it off’ by Taylor Swift and ‘Valerie’ by Amy Winehouse. I made a conscious effort to move when I sang as I wanted to make sure Sarah could see me as she lay on the bed. I felt that incorporating movement with singing would give her extra stimulus.
Sarah’s mum said that it was the most stimulated she had seen her daughter for weeks. The experience really demonstrated the power of music as a therapeutic tool.”