Since October, I have been playing shakuhachi three times at the Bosweg. I must confess I was a bit nervous the first time after October: would it be so hectic again? But actually, during these three sessions in February, March and May, the patients were very quiet. February was particularly nice, because the nurses were also very enthusiastic. Which was not entirely the case when I went again this week. What happened? Continue reading Playing again at the Bosweg
After the Christmas holidays, when I went back to the dementia care house where I monthly play shakuhachi for the patients, A. told me that the departments had been closed for almost a month because of the Norovirus. Most of the patients were still weak and laid in bed. We had a relatively short session, nice though. I especially remember playing for P., a cheerful man who used to play piano and loves listening to music. He couldn’t get enough of it. One of the women was also very happy we came. It was as if she remembered me from the previous visit in November because she was immediately more receptive to the music. I find it so touching when the patients, although weak, strengthless or having trouble to control their movements, do their best to express their pleasure with giving me an applaus. I love to see a smile on their faces or in their eyes.
In most of my visits to the dementia care house, I notice how the condition of the patients has deteriorated. Their illness can’t be cured and it can only go worse and worse. As I play in less departments since last year, I see the same patients more often. And I notice that writing this blog helps me to better remember them and what happened during my visits. After my last visit last week, I was very happy but couldn’t say why. Wait a minute, it’s because something very special happened: improvement!
It has been some time since my last visit to the old people with dementia, which was on the 17th of October. I didn’t think it would take me so long to write a post about this particular day. In the morning, I had just posted my previous post about Practicing Kokū and was planning to write this one quite rapidly afterwards. But life had other plans. Continue reading Beyond Borders
It has been more than a year I haven’t been to the department of Young People with Dementia (Bosweg) because of a big reorganisation followed by financial cuts. I don’t get paid for these visits but one of the consequences of this reorganisation is that each department must now organise its own activities and I’m attached to another department. So I wasn’t sent there anymore. Luckily, I recently happened to meet someone I already knew from this department and I found my way in again. I was really looking forward to it and to see the patients again. My appointment was today and it turned out to be one of the heaviest visit I made. Continue reading Bosweg October 2017
My last visit to the dementia care house was nice again. It sounds quite repetitive if you’ve read my other posts about my visits, although it is each time different. I never know what is going to happen and I am always a little bit nervous what to expect. How can you prepare yourself to the unexpected?
Last time, I was in a busy period, I was tired, I wanted things to get done, and there I stand, waiting for A. to finish an endless conversation with people of the department, starting to get annoyed, thinking “this has nothing to do with me, I have so many other things to do”. And then I take my flute out of my bag and start to play to warm up, which I normally never do because I don’t need to, but today I do. It is not to warm up the flute, it is for me to calm down, to open my heart and be ready to meet the patients. And it works. A few breaths and my stress is gone, the outside world can wait, I’m happy to be here, I’m ready.
Summer is often a busy period for musicians. Last month, I had some nice performances in festivals and summer school. I’ll get back to them later in other posts. I missed my monthly visit at the dementia care house in July because I was performing abroad. Luckily, I was available to go there in August, last week.
It was very hot when I went to the dementia care house last Tuesday for my monthly visit to the elderly people there. They were sheltering in the shadow and the first group I visited was watching a documentary with pictures of mountains and snow. How refreshing! They weren’t that happy when A. turned off the television and even though I played some music from the north of Japan, it was challenging to pass on to them through my breath a feeling of cool air. Most of them did appreciate my musical interlude though, especially a tiny old woman, Mrs M., cuddling a big cuddle dog she always carries around. She loves music and spontaneously hums along with an evident pleasure. Two people were sleeping and two others were waiting to get the television back, but she was the one who was going to give me the biggest surprise of the day. Continue reading Summertime
April 25 – May 23
Back today to the dementia care home where I’ve been playing for elderly people since 2014. Between today and my last visit on April 25, I gave three very different performances: the Requiem of Jenkins in the concert hall in Middelburg with orchestra, choir and soloist ; the musical show “Fureidesu” with the storyteller Gerard Jellema in Rotterdam, and the opening of the exhibition “Les Petites Peurs” by S.P.A.M. van Griensven also in Rotterdam. Different places, different audiences, different ways of listening, different ways of playing. And here I am today, back in Nijmegen for my monthly visit to the elderly people cuddling their Teddy bears, playing with toys and desperately roaming in the corridors trying to find their way home.
What a difference.
What am I going to play today?
One reason I started this blog is to write about my visits to people with dementia, visits I started in April 2014. Playing shakuhachi for them is a strong and inspiring experience. From the very first day, I felt the urge to write about it, to talk about them. And I started to collect stories.
Although I mainly play for old people, I sometimes visit another building where the “young people” live. Quite a shock to realise that some of them are around my age. I only knew Alzheimer’s disease as the most common cause of dementia. With my visits to the Young people, I discovered Pick’s disease, a disease where symptoms begin in people between the ages of 40 and 60. Different age, different behaviour, different stories.
Here is a text I wrote in October 2014.