Patients in Oxford's hospitals have enjoyed the opportunity of conducting professional musicians - from their hospital beds – thanks to the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Musicians visited the Churchill Hospital’s Dialysis Unit and the Fulbrook Centre, a community hospital providing rehabilitation and palliative care -  as part of their concert activity programme. 

The visiting quartet of musicians - a violinist, violist, cellist and flautist encouraged patients to unleash their inner musicality by getting them to join in - playing maracas, shaky eggs and unusual percussion instruments such as the tongue drum.

They also handed over the baton and let patients conduct them as they played music to suit a wide range of tastes - from Vivaldi's Four Seasons to the theme tune to The Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

The concerts were funded by Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and facilitated by the hospitals' charity arts programmes.

Ruth Charity, who is the Arts Coordinator at Oxford Hospitals Charity, which supports Oxford University Hospitals said: 

‘Music has such a positive impact on staff and patients. For patients on dialysis the concerts have done so much to relive boredom and lift mood. It is incredibly moving to watch.

‘The interactive elements of the sessions have been particularly popular, promoting conversation, smiles and laughter. The response of staff too has been a pleasure to see - with staff joining in and playing instruments too. The whole mood of the unit lifts when the musicians come in.

‘Research shows that being engaged in creative activities can increase mood by 48%, help patients recover more quickly, reduce the need for painkillers and offer a welcome distraction from the clinical setting.  

‘The opportunity to conduct has proved to be a great hit. One patient who was invited to lead the orchestra used to be a music teacher so he had prior knowledge and made the musicians go really fast. That brought much amusement on the ward but others directed a more gentle sound. There was also an opportunity for people to shake their maracas and jiggle their shaky eggs, offering stroke and arthritis sufferers an opportunity to join in.’

‘It's not often that you get the chance to engage so directly with professional musicians but this is just part of the wonderful work of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra who bring high quality music to those who wouldn't normally have access to it.’

Will Emery, Education Officer from the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra said: ‘We make sure our interactive sessions are inclusive and create a personalised experience for patients, while maintaining a group dynamic.

‘It has been a joy to watch patients’ confidence grow over the course of the sessions. Two patients, who had previously been more shy, bravely volunteered on our final day to conduct and play the tongue drum, performing wholeheartedly and committedly.

‘Staff members even teared up as they had not seen those patients so confident and animated since arriving on the ward. Aiding and witnessing this positive impact has been a privilege for us at the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra.’

Oxford Hospitals Charity has a dynamic programme of arts and activities in our hospitals, with much funded by our thoughtful supporters. If you would like to help future projects like this across our hospitals do get in touch or donate through the link below.

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