The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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September 2019

Singing as a Chorus

Diana Finning

A rather wonderful series of events happened in the church in May and June when Arts4dementia, Songhaven and Hampstead Parish Church combined to put on an 8 week course for those with early stage dementia and their companions. A lovely group of people turned up every week in rain, sun or snow (the filming of A Christmas Carol presented its own challenges!) to celebrate the joys of group singing for an hour with opera choruses, songs from the shows and popular tunes from the past. At the end of each session there was time for coffee, biscuits and chat and a chance to get to know each other. The last session was open for friends and families and was a chance for the group to share what they had been practising.  Edelweiss, Moon River, Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Love Unspoken from the Merry Widow rang out in the church and the audience were allowed to join in from time to time! It was a joyous occasion.


How did this happen? Hampstead Parish Church is a member of the Camden Dementia Action Alliance, which has turned out to be a fruitful place to network. Many charities and community organisations are members including Arts 4 Dementia, which is a UK charity “working to empower individuals and families living with dementia in the community through engagement with the arts”. Another member is Songhaven, “a not-for-profits social enterprise delivering professional live concerts in an atmosphere of kindness, inclusivity and joy.” The enormously talented mezzo-soprano Vivien Conacher runs Songhaven and led the workshop with professional piano accompaniment from the equally talented Chad Vindin. Hampstead Parish Church could offer a beautiful space, a piano and tea and coffee and all that was missing was the funding which came from Arts 4 Dementia and the PCC of our church supported by a generous anonymous donation.


As the welcomer on the door and maker of tea and coffee (how I blessed the new coffee machines!) I was privileged to see at first-hand how enormously important music is in bringing fulfilment and joy to the lives of those living with dementia and indeed to all of us. Filled with renewed energy, one of the participants suggested an outing to the seaside would be an appropriate follow up activity and I could only agree with her. Failing that, I do hope that we will be able to run a similar event again.

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