PROGRAM BRINGS CONCERTS TO CARE HOMES - The Coast Reporter October 26, 2007

Imagine a concert with a professional string quartet, jazz band or harpist playing in a care home or hospital for the enjoyment of residents or patients who thought they had been cut off from such events.

This is the idea behind the Health Arts Society, or ArtsWay, a non-profit group based in Vancouver that seeks to bring music and theatre to shut-ins. Last year, in only their second year of operation, the group hosted a whopping 600-plus events in facilities throughout the Vancouver Coastal Health area.

On Monday at Christ-enson Village Care Home in Gibsons, a distinguished group of string players, the Kodaly Quartet from Hungary, stopped in to perform a complimentary 45-minute concert especially for residents and staff that was received with awe and joy. The concert was facilitated by the Coast Recital Society (CRS) and sponsored by ArtsWay.

The music lover behind the idea, David Lemon, pursued a career in insurance for 33 years and was also the long-time owner of the Vancouver music store The Magic Flute, which he sold in 2004. Lemon had occasion to attend an event at the Vancouver General Hospital Foundation where the discussion centred on the importance of the visual arts in health care.

Because I love music, it occurred to me that we need lots more music in health care, too” he said. “It’s not a new idea.”

What is new about the ArtsWay concept is that the program has a scale and consistency of events that has made it popular in just over two years.

“We know music is good for well people — why shouldn’t it work against illness and the limitations of age?” he asks.

ArtsWay uses the talents of only accomplished musicians, as one would expect from an organization that names pianist Jane Coop and conductor Bramwell Tovey among its patrons.

Lemon hopes to make the program grow on the Sunshine Coast, though future concerts will require a funding contribution from the community. Recently, he undertook a visit, accompanied by the CRS’s Frances Wainwright and Mary Lea Bell, to three care facilities on the Coast: Christenson, Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge.

Wainwright realized that their music series could collaborate with ArtsWay quite handily by having visiting musicians stay one more night on the Coast to give a second concert. The Kodaly Quartet had appeared at a Sunday performance at the Raven’s Cry Theatre to kick off the CRS’s new season. They agreed to perform again.

Christenson was chosen as the first facility for a concert because of its location in Gibsons. The quartet could play in the morning and still catch the 12:20 p.m. ferry.

“It’s a natural fit between CRS and the Health Arts Society (HAS),” said Wainwright. “We’re extremely pleased with this latest community outreach program.”

The CRS Artists in the Community program has had visiting musicians perform in elementary and secondary schools, and now this association with HAS will extend the program to eldercare facilities. For more about ArtsWay, see www.healtharts.org.