Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stephen Clift

I am so excited!!! Stephen Clift, of the De Haan Centre has emailed me, with information about what they are doing, request for my material, and an outline of round table discussions that are being held in October to discuss, on different days, for 3 hrs each:
  1. Singing and mental health
  2. Singing and chronic lung disease (Elizabeth)
  3. Singing older people and dementia (some of my Glee Club)
  4. Singing and Parkinsons disease (Cecelia)
  5. Singing and the wellbeing of children and young people (My university students)
In brackets are the people in my experience and research that are relevant to the topics.

Various groups that are working in these populations with singing will be attending these round tables, so it will be participants as well as observers and researchers.

The partner organisation that is working with the De Haan centre is:

Sing for your life

who run over 50 Club sessions per month for older people across the South-East of England.
I am no longer alone in my research!!

It is now my intention to work towards having study leave in the second half of 2010 to go and spend that time based at the De Haan Centre, taking part in research, taking part in training, presenting my own research, learning about how to more effectively research and advocate.

It is about 9 months since I started this blog. My eldest son started me on this trajectory, working where my passion was, and I think that this link is the start of the next chapter in my work and my life. Thank you Matthew!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sidney de Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health

With some help from colleagues on Friday I found some very exciting new research, and an invaluable document for my work that has been produced by Stephen Clift, Grenville Hancox, Rosalia Staricoff and Christine Whitmore. I first met the names Clift and Hancox through research on self reported effects of singing in a choir with which they were working, see my post Oct 21st 2008. That research was reported in 2001, and the Sidney de Haan Centre was formed at Canterbury Christchurch University in England in 2004. Named after a man who received great personal enjoyment and benefit from music during his latter life, while suffering with vascular dementia. Sidney's son Roger supported Professors Hancox and Clift to set up the new research centre.

The document is entitled Singing and Health: Summary of a systematic Mapping and Review of Non-Clinical Research and can be found at:

Singing and Health Document

Go to this site and download the pdf document.

At the same site you will find another document that will interest singers:

Choral Singing, Wellbeing and Health: A cross-national survey

Thank you to these men, and their colleagues, and the passion that they have had for singing and its benefits!!

St Andrews Senior Singers

I was delighted to get an email from the manager of the St Andrews complex in Cambridge. I went to visit them on May 13th, and they have formed a group that is open to all retired people in Cambridge. With a population of around 15,000, and other choral groups in the town, it will be interesting to see how the group grows. I have been invited to use them for research which is excellent! They are being taken alternate weeks by two different people. It will be interesting to find out what effect this has. I surmise that the group dynamic will be stronger as the group will be the constant. I will plan to visit with them after they have been functioning for at least 10 weeks, which is about 8 weeks from now.

The wonderful Hilda Ross Glee Club

The members of the Glee Club are taking more and more ownership of the group. Once again, while I was away they all attended rehearsal. The commitment to the group is something that is now valued by the members, and they encourage each other in that as well as valuing it when they are together. Furthermore they are formally taking on roles within that. Harry has been already arranging indexes for the music so that those who have trouble finding their music, now have it numbered. He has reformatted pages which I have prepared that are also not user friendly, and when I sent the programme order through for the next concert, then activities person Marie took it to Harry and he typed it out, including the number of each song in the folder as well. Harry is now our administrator. Tui, one of my two blind singers is the contacts person. If I need to get a message out then Tui will do it for me. Elizabeth is the one who takes rehearsals when I am not there, and has introduced a new song to the Glee Club, which I will try to have little to do with. Elizabeth is the only one who uses her cellphone regularly so she will be the one I message, and she will pass things on to the right person to action.

Commitment to, and enjoyment of, Glee Club is sometimes shown in dramatic ways. When we sang at the Gerontology Conference in 2007, Glen discharged himself from hospital to come and sing with us. He was not well but he loved singing. He died partway through 2008. At our practise last Thursday Cecelia collapsed. We sit for our rehearsals, in chairs which wrap around the body. Initially I thought she was sleeping, and I roused her and found the place in her folder, but she then became unresponsive. We are fortunate to have Dr Alex in the Glee Club who told me what to do, we rang the bell and got her lying down on the floor, her blood pressure was well down. Her husband arrived, and said he knew that she shouldn't have come, she couldn't even talk to him when she left the apartment. Medics arrived, and we sort-of went on with our rehearsal. Cecelia regained consciousness, and I told her before she was taken off in a wheelchair that she had to look after herself so that she could sing, she smiled. Now that is some determination to sing!!


I thoroughly enjoyed the two conferences that I attended in Canterbury. July 3rd - 10th

The first was a Music Research Conference: The 31st Australia New Zealand Association for Research in Music Education (ANZARME) Conference held in Akaroa July 3rd - 6th. The format of the conference was excellent, we all listened to each other, but never for long enough, we had 15 minutes each and so many said 'have I run out already?' I presented a paper about the profile of Ageing New Zealanders, the government's Positive Ageing Strategy and its bias towards physical health and fitness outcomes, with less regard to other ways of both keeping fit and enhancing quality of life (singing), and current research on benefits of singing. I showed them a chart which showed the pre and post blood pressure of my Glee Club, taken before and after rehearsal the day before I left. I will try to put a pdf of this up for you to see, but in summary, the blood pressure in 11 out of 15 people mover closer to normal (being 120 over 80). People whose pressure was low came up and people whose pressure was up came down. It is far too small a sample to mean anything, but given that I had no idea what would happen, I find it significant and something to definitely continue to investigate. During my presentation I did a non-scientific study on the group of 40 people listening. At the beginning of my presentation I asked them to make a mark on the bottom of a page at the back of their pad (provided for us in the conference pack) indicating on a likert scale (left being low, right being high) their current sense of wellbeing. Towards the end of my presentation I put up the words of the first verse of Waltzing Matilda (in deference to the Australians) and they stood and sang with me, then sat and marked a page in front of the first, with their then current sense of wellbeing. Over 65% recorded improved sense, some recorded no change, and one recorded a lower sense (she was the next presenter)(N=40) . This paper will be written up to be published, and if there is a link I will post it here.

The second conference was the MENZA National Music Education Conference held in Christchurch. The keynote speakers were all very good value, with Dr Richard Letts for the Australian Music Council giving excellent advice about how we can better advocate for music at all levels in New Zealand. Professor Sam Leong for Hong Kong gave a provocative presentation on assessment, saying that teaching and learning and assessing should be three side of the same triangle.

My presentation to this conference was more ethnographic. I gave the attendants the results of three open-ended questions that I gave the Glee Club, asking them how Glee Club affected their health, feeling of well-being, and quality of life. I also played two video interviews that I conducted with participants, asking them why they sing in Glee Club, and what they think about our performing on and off site. There were not many who came to my presentation, I went and picked up my Dad, age 87 and he came to see me do my 'thing'. However, those who were there were all very interested and helpful in their comments and supportive of my ongoing work so I have people to bounce ideas off, and one person who is going to send me books that she no longer uses!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ageing and Society Masters paper

I handed in my last assignment today, asking myself over the last week as I have struggled with it why I keep doing papers. But the answer is simple, and two-fold. I wanted the knowledge, and I wanted to be accountable for the knowledge I was gaining. I have been grateful to Professor Bevan Grant who has been my lecturer in this course, as well as my colleague for the last fourteen years, as well as to my classmates, Leslie, Doreen and Steffi. We have learnt much about each other, and about the subject from each other as well.

It has also been intersting to tell my students about my study, and model for them the lifelong learner that I believe I am. I will tell you my grade when it comes through as well :-)

My final project was a profile of a person over the age of seventy. I choose Jean, who has become my friend at the Hilda Ross Rest Home. Jean is a highly intelligent, highly articulate, highly opinionated woman, who holds interesting conversations and is still very much a master of her own destiny. Having some health problems she nevertheless considers herself to be in quite good health. She is an avid reader, of newspapers and books, and is now learning to use a computer for the first time in her life. She turns 90 in November.

I shall have to show Jean this website so that she can follow my blog from now on.