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arts and theatre, care services and care homes, music and dance

The American pianist Jenny Lin gave a recital at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham this morning (18th December 2016), as part of the series of Sunday recitals that take place there each month. This one was extra special as it was live streamed to Millbeck, an Abbeyfield care home in Arnold, about 5 miles away. The live feed was organised as part of Nottingham’s Imagine Arts programme, which has been funded by the Arts Council and the Baring Foundation to bring high quality arts experiences of various kinds to care home residents across the city.

At Millbeck, about 20 residents were seated in the lounge area in front of a large screen. One of the film company staff was there to make sure that the link worked, which it did, very well. There were also a few relatives, probably mainly daughters. On the hour, the pictures were beamed up from the concert hall with a suitable air of anticipation. The soloist was introduced and due mention was made to the concert audience of the link to Millbeck. They offered us a round of applause by way of welcome. This went down well with the residents. Jenny Lin appeared in a black top and flowing white skirt, introduced the theme of her programme – song and dance – and then proceeded to play for the next hour. Actually it was dance and song, starting with Russian music, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, then a Spanish interlude that was a bit of both, leading on to arrangements of Broadway themes made by other classical pianists.

Small glasses of sherry were offered to the residents and guests and we toasted each other quietly but seriously. The residents were attentive, most of them applauding at the end of each piece. There were occasional comments heard, for example about the level of noise, but in general the audience was silent. Several ladies (the resident audience was predominantly female) closed their eyes but were not necessarily asleep as they responded as each selection finished. Most residents did not move much in response to the music but one woman, who perhaps had past musical skills, made quite elaborate fingering gestures on the handbag resting in her lap. At times she tapped her feet. When the Broadway section of the programme was underway she was softly singing many of the lyrics. A few residents left during the performance, sometimes for the bathroom or else being collected by relatives to go out for lunch. One woman came out from the front row as she seemed rather restless but then sat at the back of the room and seemed to be enjoying herself.

I think that the aim of finding a connection with a live audience in the city centre was achieved. It would not have been quite the same just watching a film. The care home audience greatly appreciated being mentioned live from the stage by the announcer. The staff were impressed by the level of engagement and alertness that the residents had displayed. I hope that everyone went into have their lunch in a positive frame of mind.

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