Every Monday at Sage Gateshead, an extraordinary group of people come together to sing in a choir. Many of the participants struggle with their speech and some have mobility issues. They all have two things in common; a condition called acquired aphasia and a love of singing.
Acquired Aphasia is often the outcome of a stroke or brain injury, and can result in communication difficulties including speaking, understanding, writing and reading. Sage Gateshead’s choir, Magenta Singers, is for people of any age who have acquired aphasia and it is run in association with the North East Trust for Aphasia Support Centre in Newcastle.
Lindsey, from Sunderland, used to be a music teacher and 9 years ago she suffered a brain haemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm and spent several months in hospital. She has been coming to the choir every week for 6 years.
“By coming to the classes my music range has increased and it gives me a way of communicating. If it hadn’t been for the choir, I wouldn’t be able to sing and I’ve always loved singing.”
Kerry Green, choir leader said: “Aphasia can be a result of damage to one side of the brain, usually the left, which controls our words and language system, but our melodic music centre is stored on our right side. People who struggle to form words find they can often sing the words to familiar songs, as the words are carried along by the melody through a different brain route. This does not transfer into improved speech, but it does give the person some respite from the struggle to utter words.”
During our sessions we sing a wide range of songs including pop, blues and folk, and everything from the Beatles to songs from the musicals and develop vocal skills and breathing. It’s a friendly and supportive group and the atmosphere is really uplifting. No previous singing experience is necessary.”
Julie, from Whitley Bay, also attends the choir every week. After a stroke 4 years ago she couldn’t speak or walk and lost a lot of confidence.
“It impacted on my ability to do everyday activities. You feel isolated, but this class makes you feel good and the ripple effect is huge. It’s has given me a lot of confidence and independence. I now live on my own and travel by bus or metro each week to the choir. I sing much more at home now too – and when doing the housework.”
Group members and their families have become good friends and they often socialise outside of the class as well as providing peer support.
“None of the people in this choir imagined they’d be as good as they are. It’s great seeing the group realise that even though they sometimes find conversation challenging, singing songs can really help express themselves. I’d really encourage anybody who has experienced a stroke or brain injury to come along and experience the benefits of group singing” added Kerry.
The Magenta Singers meet every Monday during term time, 1.30-3pm. Click HERE for more details.