Manchester Camerata CEO Bob Riley Talks ‘Music In Mind’

Posted on July 11, 2018

I wanted to tell you about my visit to Stalybridge today, where we work with Tameside Public health on our dementia programme ‘Music in Mind’.

Taking time to slow down into someone else’s pace I find difficult. Faced with 20 or so people living with dementia and a bunch of instruments, can at first seem like a challenge to me. Then, as our team get going, you suddenly start to realise there’s magic happening.

The whole session is music – nothing else. A song all about ‘Hello’ leads seamlessly to a short period where nothing much is happening, other than the workshop leaders playing ‘umpa pa’ on the piano and observing the room with eagle eyes. These eyes spot a man in the group slowly and very quietly beating rhythm on his knee, slowly and quietly they echo it, they get louder and louder until your suddenly aware that the whole room is also following the rhythm this man was tapping on his knee. The room has erupted into an elated and infectious ‘umpa pa’. It’s like the buzz from a chant at a football match. Next up is a dip and quiet period, with a kind of waltz type melody, at which point a woman who apparently was in hospital unable to walk, gets up and starts to dance with a tambourine as if she was the most brilliant Spanish dancer ever. She was in her moment, switched on, loving life and loving what she was doing. She left the session with a smile you wouldn’t believe. Her carer also beaming from seeing this person switched back on. Amina Cunnigham our principal flute & Brigitte Schwarting a Manchetser Camerata Music Therapist (our workshop leaders) were astounding in the trust they engineered in the room, the awareness and sensitivity they extended to those people, and in their musical ability to lift them all up.

If you’d like to see this work in action please contact Jane Sorrell at