Our Musician Spotlight for January is pianist Caroline Clipsham, who has been working with us for over 20 years. Caroline’s warm personality and wide repertoire, covering anything from nursery rhymes to classical pieces, make her popular in a variety of healthcare settings.
How did you first get involved with Music in Hospitals & Care?
It was still called the Council for Music in Hospitals then, and I first heard about it through two other musicians I played with in a trio at the time. They needed a pianist for a concert and I stepped in at short notice. I think I did ok, as I was asked if I would like to continue performing for the charity, and if so, that concert would be classed as my audition. And that’s how it all began! I remember my first few concerts with John and Lisa vividly, as they were so much fun. Since then I have worked with a variety of musicians all over the country, and met some wonderful people. As a freelance musician, it is the most rewarding work.
What have been some of your highlights?
There have been many memorable moments. At the Royal Marsden in Chelsea, where I was giving a concert with a clarinettist, we were asked to go up a few flights of stairs to play to a patient who was too ill to be moved, but was thrilled to hear the clarinet played at her her bedside as she used to play herself. There were a few tears all around.
There are always those special moments when patients with dementia, who maybe haven’t engaged or spoken in years, suddenly join in with a song and know all the words, or when memories are triggered by a certain piece. Eyes light up and it instigates a whole conversation; it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.
I also have a soft spot for the children’s hospitals, such as Southampton Children’s Hospital, where I have had lots of fun with Music in Hospitals & Care singer Ciara who is amazing with the children. They are so full of enthusiasm for the music and love to dance and sing, however unwell they are. I am also fond of the Children’s Hospice here in North Devon.
Tell us about creating your wonderful performance of The Snowman as part of our Christmas programme.
I run a concert series here in North Devon for children and families, and before the various lockdowns, our Christmas project was going to be several performances of The Snowman with local mime artist and storyteller Kirsty Allen. We were due to perform this in a few different settings until COVID restrictions meant we were unable to do so. We all had to rethink how we did things, so plans were put on hold for a bit -until Music in Hospitals & Care enquired as to whether we could do a video performance.
We quickly got to grips with the tech side of things (which is not my field at all!) with an interesting set up of phones, laptops and microphones, all balanced precariously on piles of books and tripods. The only thing missing was a boy soprano to sing ‘Walking in the Air’. We couldn’t use another singer due to restrictions, so we toyed with the idea of just playing the music (neither of us are any good at singing!) until my daughter came in and started singing along. She learnt the song quickly and her voice was suited to it, so she completed our creation. We also thought that as it was aimed at children, they might quite like to see another child in the video too.
It was a lovely project to do, and made all the more worthwhile and enjoyable knowing the audience it was finally created for. Thank you to Music in Hospitals & Care for enabling us to do this.
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