Musical Memories - combating isolation in Ryedale and the North York Moors

A Ryedale couple have been running a musical chat and sing-along session each day since the lockdown began. They’ve also been checking in with those who attend to ensure they’re staying safe and well.

Ruth and Neil Hannah, who have been performing as duo Musical Memories since 2016, are more commonly seen hosting regular singing sessions in places such as Pickering, Helmsley, Norton and Danby.

When lockdown hit, they had to find a way to bring the community to them. They set up a studio in a corner of their garage, with an eye catching musical note pattern in the background.

Ruth said: “ We’re been fortunate to get funding from Two Ridings Foundation and the National Emergencies Trust. They’ve helped us to equip ourselves. When we started we only had table lamps and phones balanced on the back of boxes.”

Neil and Ruth Hannah with the Tune a Day Songbook

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    At 11am each weekday, the couple connect with their audience via Facebook and Periscope, providing a valuable escape from isolation during lockdown.

    Ruth said: “The people that we sing with have become our friends. You realise how important you are in their lives. There is so little for older people and when that’s taken away it’s so difficult

    “It’s a kind of chat magazine show. We want to make it special for people. When we sing, we just imagine that they’re sitting there.”

    “There has been lots of research into health and well-being. The benefits are tremendous. Music is a real leveller, everyone can participate. Everybody’s got a voice.

    “We always leave the show with a cryptic clue about tomorrow's tune - For example, one day last week the clue was “These have been much quieter lately” and the following day we played Country Roads.”

    The session provides those attending the opportunity to interact with the couple as they respond to any chat comments they can see on screen.

    The impact it has on those involved is incredible. Ruth said: “One lady rang me to tell me that her son had rummaged around at his house to find an old laptop and had downloaded the link to our daily session (via Periscope) for his Mum to click on so that she could join us.

    “She was so delighted that she called me to tell me that it was ‘wonderful that a little bit of normality had been restored to my very abnormal life’.

    In the coming weeks, the couple are looking to develop the show further to enable them to take telephone calls, providing another escape from isolation for those taking part.

    They send out roughly 100 song books each month and 75 Cd's enabling those at home to join in and sing along, even if they don’t have a computer.

    The session, which is also broadcast live on the Helmsley Arts Centre YouTube Channel, has attracted audiences from across the globe, including Texas, Australia, Italy and Nottingham!

    Ruth said the couple, who live in Huttons Ambo, have taken a significant financial hit since the singing sessions stopped. She explained that as Musical Memories is a community interest company, it is normally supported by the small sums of money people pay to attend their singing sessions each week, but since the sessions have stopped they are working harder than ever but earning nothing.

    A Just Giving page has been set up to help raise funds, and Ruth said she is in the middle of completing her seventh grant application in as many weeks. But there is no guarantee they will get the grants, and even if they do, there is no set time frame as to when they will come through.

    The couple have received a number of messages thanking them for the sessions. Paula, who lives near Scarborough, said: “Great to hear from you. So nice to receive a positive and welcoming response in a world of doom & gloom.

    “After being quite a socialite since Mum died I am finding this unprecedented situation extremely difficult. Whether my limited knowledge and use of technology will allow me to tune into your links is debatable!!

    “However, I myself, alone, continue to have a singalong with my favourite artists/bands and manically dance, together with Larry my dog x

    Judith, from Malton, said: “Brilliant! You bring so much joy to so many with your music making. It's wonderful that you’ve found a way to help beat the virus blues.

    “I've just watched your recordings so far. I sang my heart out to Bring me Sunshine and in my head I swear I could hear Diana's extra ad libs when we sang ‘She'll be coming round the Mountain’! I'll be among the many tuning in at 11:00 for a daily dose of joy.”

    You can find Musical Memories on Facebook at @mmcic or go to periscope and search for Musical Memories.

    Anyone who would like a copy of the words emailing to them can contact Ruth via email on [email protected]

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