Last month, Wells Voice reported how music transformed the life of Wells City Band’s Musical Director, Paul Denegri. Here, he explains how he is now using music to transform the lives of others.
IT has been a privilege to hold the position of Musical Director of Wells City Band over the last 14 months. One of the oldest brass bands in the UK at nearly 200 years old, it is a band steeped in history and in particular its service to its community and its charity work.
Wells City Band held their annual Christmas concert in the Wells Town Hall as usual but December 17, 2022, was to prove a very different Christmas concert. In its 183-year history it had almost certainly never witnessed before at its highlight Christmas event a rock song played on guitar and sung live.
Towards the end of the concert the Wells City Band committee had asked that I perform live the song I See You which was written and released along with a film to raise awareness of the importance of live music at the bedside of residents in care homes, and to raise desperately needed funds for residents who have do not have the financial resources to buy the basics of life such as toiletries, a haircut, shoes, etc.
Indicative of Wells City Band’s committed community and charity efforts, the band that night raised more than £500 through band donations from the band members themselves and a collection on the door at the end of the concert, all for the newly formed I See You project.
The I See You project was born after my dad had a stroke and suffering from the early stages of dementia, was admitted and subsequently died six months later in a care home in Kent. During one of my last visits to see Dad he was significantly more together, brighter and happier, and on asking him why, he said two young girls had come into the care home and sung karaoke style to the residents.
Dad said the singing was awful but he loved hearing live music and for that hour they sung, he said he completely forgot he was old and at the end of his life. He described it as a great relief and peace of mind for that one hour.
As I drove back up the A303 late that evening I felt utter shame and embarrassment that as a professional musician of 34 years I had not once set foot in a care home. I had not considered for one minute that the skills I had as a musician could bring joy, a deeper emotional connection and peace of mind to those of an older generation residing in care homes as they lived out the final days of their life.
Even worse than this, my dad loved music, and I hadn’t even thought to bring live music to him while he was in care.
I wasn’t going to get the chance to rectify this as in a matter of weeks my dad passed away.
His death and seeing the joy and peace he had experienced for that short time on that one day had a profound effect on me and I knew I had to take live music to the bedsides of those in care.
Although I didn’t realise it then, the I See You project was born. I was about to travel a journey where I found out more about myself than the notes I played. I unexpectedly made friends with so many elderly people and connected with them in a way I hadn’t experienced or enjoyed before. I’ve laughed, and cried, been moved and fulfilled in equal measure.
I could write for hours about the wonderful people I’ve met as they travel the last days of their life and how interacting with them through the untouchable power of live music has brought so much to them that can never be put into words, but you see it in their eyes and their smile.
Yet something so simple and with a country full of professional, amateur and young musicians, so little of it happens. Why?
Just giving live music for half an hour a week, a month or twice a year will make a huge difference to their wellbeing and their heart and soul and they will give back in return in ways never thought possible.
Music and the soul cannot be seen or touched and that is why they are the perfect partners and because music cares.
The I See You film and song can be seen on YouTube by searching Paul Denegri I See You. Donations to the I See You Project can be given on the Just Giving Website: justgiving.com/fundraising/glastonbury-care-home