So many Beauties – poetry and creativity

Here’s one of the poems written with people with dementia which will feature in the So Many Beauties Performance. It will be performed by Manchester Children’s Choir who are one of several groups taking part in the event. Singers from age 10 to over 70 are involved in the concert which is a celebration of the creativity of people with dementia.


Spring tastes like water,

Spring water is cold, cold and bubbly –

definitely bubbly.

Spring feels new and Spring feels blue,

Spring looks like daffodils, bulbs, tulips,

It looks green and young, smells like crocuses.

Spring feels like waiting for what’s coming –

To be alive like me, to be happy, yes happy and awake!

Spring sounds chirpy,

Lambs gambolling,

With all that Spring in the air!

Here’s the setting of this poem to music which the children will be singing


Meet Eleanor, one of the student team!


Eleanor is one of the students participating on the Adages project which has involved creative sessions with older people with dementia and has unlocked a multitude of ideas and inspiration that have been woven into to beautiful new piece of music.

Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks stated that, ‘Music is part of being human…Its’ very ubiquity may cause it to be trivialised in daily life…But to those who are lost in dementia, the situation is different. Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and can have a power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.’

Music has an incredible capacity to restore agency in the most vulnerable people. It can offer relaxation and stimulation and can mediate where words fail, providing a means of communication for those who are non-verbal.

Eleanor worked alongside lead musician Holly Marland in delivering creative sessions in different dementia care settings. These  involved residents and patients singing, writing poetry, having creative conversations and improvising using percussion. The ideas generated through these sessions have been arranged and orchestrated, with the title of the piece drawn from a remark from a Polish lady with dementia as musicians played beside her bedside – ‘So Many Beauties’.

Eleanor had a terrific rapport with the participants who were clearly charmed and enlivened by the sound of her bassoon and her beautiful singing. She created a range of textures that met the sounds being made by residents and was fluent and supportive working within the team.

Here’s what Eleanor has to tell us;

“I’m a first year postgraduate bassoon student at the Royal Northern College of Music. I completed my undergraduate degree in music at the University of Nottingham and have been extremely passionate about music performance from a very young age. I have played with, and enjoyed being a part of many chamber groups and orchestras including Bird College Youth Orchestra, University of Nottingham Philharmonia, RNCM Opera Orchestra and the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra. I love the diversity to be found in music as I also play the clarinet and saxophone and love playing different genres of music. This has included jazz as part of The University of Nottingham’s Moonlighters Big Band and in shows such as Sweeney Todd and The Producers at The Nottingham Arts Theatre.

I love music’s ability to connect with so many different people of all ages in different and personal ways. I enjoy volunteering and being a part of music outreach and have recently worked with primary school children to create and rehearse their own original opera which was performed at the RNCM. Being given the opportunity to work beside Holly in her work in Dementia care homes and hospital wards has been an incredible experience from which I have learned so much. It gives me so much joy seeing the moment when music affects someone in any way, and the experiences of residents breaking into song or even just a smile really shows the importance and potential of music itself. Through ‘So Many Beauties’ Holly has shown music to be a completely unique way to communicate and express emotions and stories and I am very excited to be part of a performance that conveys so many people’s thoughts and feelings, perfectly captured by Holly.”

Tickets are available now for the performance on Thursday 6 April at Manchester Cathedral 7pm from at a very reasonable price. The performance is dementia friendly and there will be many representatives from different UK dementia agencies who will be able to answer questions informally after the concert as well as giving out information. Please do support this incredible event!

Vocal Scores hot off the press for So Many Beauties #music #dementia

Adages score.jpg

The vocal scores have arrived from the printers today and look pretty good. It’s the first time I’ve ever produced a bound score of a complete, large scale work so it’s very exciting for me as a composer! I will be sending these out to all the singers this week. They’ve already had PDF copies and links to audio and have been busy learning different sections. We’re having a choral rehearsal on Sunday 2 April at the Royal Northern College of Music. It will be fantastic to have singers of all ages and abilities involved in this performance!

Meet John-Luke, one of the RNCM students working on Adages



John was one of the four students who worked alongside Holly on the Adages project in different dementia care settings, delivering creative sessions. John has a very rounded and mellow tone on both trumpet and cornet and was able to play incredibly quietly at times which is a real skill. This worked well in the hospital ward environment where it was important to be subtle and not to over impose sounds. He was also excellent at mirroring and responding to the rhythms that residents were playing and instigated some lovely Marching motifs and flourishes.

John says “I’m currently in my 3rd year of study at the Royal Northern College of Music studying cornet and trumpet under the direction of Professor Roger Webster. I enjoy all kinds of music but am especially at home in a brass band environment surrounded by plenty of friends and real ales! I have enjoyed working on this project with Holly, Michael the other students and of course the fabulous residents at the care homes and hospitals that we have had the fortune to work in. It has been a real privilege to make music with the residents and seeing them have fun and enjoying life in a way only music can bring about.”

You can hear John playing as part of the ensemble for the So Many Beauties performance at Manchester Cathedral on Thursday 6 April 7pm and you can book your tickets in advance at We look forward to seeing you there!

Press Release

Cathedral premiere for musical partnership featuring NW dementia patients 

An extraordinary musical partnership between a North West composer and people with dementia will reach a crescendo with a premiere at Manchester Cathedral next month.

A massed choir and musical ensemble will perform ‘So Many Beauties’ on the evening of Thursday April 6th, the climax of a project funded by the Arts Council and the charity Music in Hospitals known as ‘Adages’.

Project leader Holly Marland, who plays a West African harp known as a kora, wrote the piece during creative sessions in residential care homes and hospitals across the region. The sessions involved residents and patients singing, writing poetry, having creative conversations and improvising using percussion.

Singer, musician and composer Holly arranged and orchestrated these contributions for the concert, with the title drawn from a remark from a Polish lady with dementia as musicians played beside her bedside – ‘So Many Beauties’.

The dementia friendly concert will bring together singing groups from across Greater Manchester, including the Golden Voices choir for the over 50s, St George’s Singers in Poynton, Manchester Children’s Choir, the Carers’ Chorus (a choir of people caring for those with dementia) and members of BBC Radio 4’s Daily Service Singers.

The performance, starting at 7pm, also features Manchester Broadside Balladeer Jennifer Reid, Romanian double bass virtuoso Michael Cretu and talented student musicians from the RNCM, conducted by eminent choir leader and composer Sasha Johnson Manning. Patsy Pope from All about Dementia will be giving an opening speech and representatives from many leading UK organisations including Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK will be available afterwards for informal networking and information sharing.

Tickets are priced £8 with concessions available, from

“The piece sends a positive message about the creativity and wisdom of people with dementia and the importance of finding new ways of listening to and communicating with people living with this frightening condition,” said Holly, who established the RNCM’s Music for Health programme.

Edward Coverley, activities co-ordinator at one of the participating care homes – Cawood House in Brinnington in Stockport – said the Adages Project “created a space in which people can be humorous, musical, imaginative, vocal, sarcastic, physical, dynamic, exploratory, argumentative, uplifted, tearful, baffled, curious, and otherwise human.”

The granddaughter of the lady whose remark gave the composition its name said the music had made her very happy.

“My grandmother is one of the most important parts of my life: I love seeing her happy,” she said. “Adages has been a truly amazing programme.”

Discussions are also underway with BBC Radio 4 Religion and Ethics Department with a view to broadcasting excerpts of the piece during Dementia Awareness Week in May 2017.

– Ends –

Issued by:  Kate Hartwell, Adages Project Manager   Tel: 07935601196 E-mail:


The performance will be dementia friendly and accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Representatives from a wide range of UK and regional dementia agencies will be in attendance so that audience members, including people living at home with dementia and their carers, can access information and guidance on dementia support in an informal context.

Holly Marland is a singer, kora player and composer widely acclaimed for her engagement with diverse communities and passionate about music’s role in society. Holly established the Music for Health programme at the RNCM which is now based as part of the arts for health organisation LIME at Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust. She is a specialist music for health practitioner as well as a registered Music Therapist.

The charity Music in Hospitals has nearly 70 years of experience in providing music sessions for hospitals and other healthcare venues.  Their musicians are adept at entering an environment with empathy and flexibility and perform live for people with all sorts of illness and disability, adjusting their choice of music to the needs of the patients. Healthcare staff are able to continue with their  duties as the musicians play, in an environment that benefits from the relaxing and calming influence the music engenders.

The Adages project has also worked in partnership with RNCM, a leading UK conservatoire with a vibrant student community and arts programme, with Manchester Cathedral whose vision is vision is to grow, build community and make a difference in society and the wider world and with Carers Link in Lancashire who provide comprehensive information and support services to those living with dementia in the community.


Meet Jisun! @RNCM #musicanddementia


Four students from the Royal Northern College of Music came to work alongside me on the Adages project. I’m introducing them in the run up to the So Many Beauties performance so here is Jisun. Jisun has an incredibly beautiful quality of sound on her violin and creates soaring melodies as well as delicate ebbs and flows that uplift the listener! She and Ellis, our postgraduate violinist, complemented each other so well – weaving improvised melodies and textures together, echoing what the participants with dementia were playing or singing. Jisun was very sweet with the participants and is a great improviser who works well in a group.

Here’s what she has to tell us;

I’m currently a third year student studying violin with Yossi Zivoni at the Royal Northern College of Music. Originally Born in Seoul, South Korea, I moved to England with my family since age of 13 and lived in Birmingham since then before coming to Manchester for university. A passionate and orchestra music lover, I play and very much enjoy working in group ensembles and orchestras, and have been a member of many orchestras such as the RNCM Symphony, Chamber Orchestras, Manchester University Music Society Symphony, Chamber Orchestras, City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Orchestra, Orfeo International Music festival Symphony Orchestra, Young Musician’s Symphony Orchestra London and etc. I’m currently the leader of Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra 2016-2017.

Outside school work and many ensemble playing, I’m also a keen musician who very much believes and hopes my music can be used at many outreach places and voluntary occasions to play and share my music with those who are in need and deliver them hope, love and joy through the power of music- This is the reason why having been given the opportunity to meet and work along side with our Genius Kora player Holly has been such a privilege. What Holly does for people at the NHS hospitals, care homes and for the elderly people in Dementia in special, watching and playing along side with Holly truly has been a privilege experience and life changing experience to having been able to see small miracles and happy smiles she can bring to these people in need.

In the future I hope to become a secondary/primary music teacher and my long term goal is to become an orchestra player. I’m very fortunate to be able to participate and play at this wonderful So Many Beauties concert and to play all the music written and composed and premiered by Holly and the participants with dementia.

Meet the students


Over the next week I’ll be introducing the four RNCM students who took part in the project , working alongside me to deliver creative sessions in 5 different dementia care settings. First up is Ellis, a postgraduate violinist. Ellis was just fantastic at creating rhythmic fills and interesting textures on the violin to complement what the residents were playing. He had a lovely rapport with the residents as well as supporting the other musicians and me.

Here’s Ellis’ biography and a bit about what the project has meant for him;

I’m a violin student at the RNCM and I enjoy an eclectic mix of performing, teaching and outreach projects. Alongside orchestral and chamber music, recent events have included performances with cross-genre bands GSD and Kaleidoscope Orchestra, a pre-concert presentation on baroque string instruments and working with aspiring young musicians in collaboration with In Harmony and Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra. A keen music arranger and viola player, I also enjoy travelling, swimming and foreign languages.

Being part of the Adages project has been an eye-opening experience. The genuine joy music can generate in care settings is immediately obvious and Holly’s energetic approach to engaging with the residents quickly has an entire room singing and playing along to familiar tunes, on top of prompting spontaneous poetry and lyrics for use in future compositions including So Many Beauties. Learning how to communicate musically (and verbally) a million miles away from the traditional concert platform has been a fantastic opportunity and serves to remind us of the true purpose and power of music.

Looking for singers, particularly tenors and basses

Holly Marland a local composer/musician is looking for singers, especially tenors and basses, to volunteer their time to take part in the performance of “So Many Beauties”, an oratorio written with people with dementia, celebrating creativity. This is at Manchester Cathedral at 7pm on Thursday 6 April 2017.

You can click here  adages-info-for-singers to obtain information about the project and about timings for rehearsals etc. We may be able to help towards travel expenses if this would enable you to participate. It would be helpful if you were able to make both rehearsals but we may still be able to accommodate people if not.

If you are interested in helping out, it would be useful if you could cut and paste answers to the following questions into an email to as soon as possible.

Voice part:

What choir(s) do you sing in already?

Can you attend Sunday 2 April rehearsal at RNCM 2pm – 5pm? If only part of it, let us know what time:

Can you attend Thursday 6 April rehearsal at Manchester Cathedral 2pm – 4pm?

If not, what time would you be able to get to the cathedral on Thursday 6 April approx?

Contact telephone number:

Do you have any dietary or access requirements?

Postal address for the score:

Holly will be providing a printed score for all participants but will also be emailing round PDF’s and audio in the next few weeks so you can start to learn your parts. If you are unable to access online audio resources via Dropbox or Soundcloud, please let Holly know so she can post you a CD.

Hopefully this will be a lovely experience for everyone involved!

If you can possibly encourage other singing chums to get involved (particularly tenors and basses), that would also be appreciated and do feel free to send the e-flyer round to your friends and colleagues! Thanks in advance for your consideration.


It makes me dance in my chair

It’s been incredible to see how residents and patients have blossomed through involvement in music making, poetry writing and having creative conversations. I’ve gathered around 60 hours of session recordings over the course of the last few months and have been listening back to all of them, selecting creative materials to include in the final piece of music. On hearing the music next to her hospital bed, one lady exclaimed “so many beauties” and this has become the title for the piece which will be performed by a choir of around 70-100 people and ensemble at Manchester Cathedral on Thursday 6 April 2017. This piece celebrates the creativity of people with dementia and it has been an enormous privilege to work with Cooper House, Bradford, Cawood House, Brinnington, Stepping Hill Hospital, Lyme Green Hall, Macclesfield and Watford House, New Mills. Thanks to Arts Council England, Music in Hospitals, RNCM and Manchester Cathedral for their support.

“Something to look forward to” feedback from resident

“It makes me dance in my chair” resident

“She doesn’t think I’m silly” resident

“Happiness fills the room” feedback from family member

Age Exchange

Age Exchange are recruiting for arts practitioners to train as part of their RADIQL programme of reminiscence arts with people experiencing Dementia.

To access the application pack go to 

A study on the work undertaken by Royal Holloway University found that the creative engagement offered in RADIQL practice improved the wellbeing of participants by 42% and increased positive behaviour by 25%. It also highlighted recommendations for improving practice including different approaches to working with and training care staff and the need to have effective exit strategies in place so people are not built up and then let down as a project finishes. Really interesting reading;