Music Therapy student volunteers applauded for UWE Bristol ReVoice Choir success

Issue date: 09 November 2016


UWE Bristol ReVoice Choir, a singing group for stroke survivors with the speech and language disorder aphasia, has been hailed a success thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of student volunteers from the MA Music Therapy programme at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Starting in September 2015, the choir is a collaboration between the Centre for Performing Arts (CPA) and MA Music Therapy and BSc(Hons) Occupational Therapy volunteers. It was founded by UWE Science Communication Unit researcher, Laura Fogg-Rogers who reporting in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation, found that a similar choir in New Zealand helped to improve the feelings of social isolation and low mood experienced by stroke survivors.

Dr Catherine Warner, Programme Manager for MA in Music Therapy says, “We're delighted by the success of the UWE Bristol ReVoice Choir. We are a choir of 30 members with 14 regular attendees with aphasia plus their carers, relatives and partners. Our name, UWE Bristol ReVoice Choir was chosen by the members and it really sums up the choir perfectly – it's a positive place that helps members to rediscover their voice through song.

“After a stroke, people have difficulty, finding and retrieving words in spoken language. Music singing is different as it uses different neural pathways. It's great for self-expression and we find that if the members know the song, the more words they're able to retrieve.

“The success of the choir is really down to the fantastic support of the music therapy and occupational therapy volunteers who help to run the choir. They source the music, print the lyrics and sheet music and direct, arrange and accompany the songs. Their enthusiasm and dedication must really be applauded and this experience will stand them in good stead for their future careers.”

Three of the MA Music Therapy student volunteers helping to run the choir are passionate about the positive impact the experience has had on them.

Satyam Makoieva has been on placement working on an acute stroke ward with patients who have aphasia. Satyam has found the volunteering experience very beneficial, enabling her to transfer the knowledge and take what she's learnt from the choir back into her placement.

Describing her highlight, Satyam says, “We featured on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours last year and it was very moving to hear the recording. Normally we can't hear individual voices, but through the use of a very sensitive microphone, people's voices were broadcast. I found that really touching and I know that members of the choir found it really supportive for trying to “revoice”, get their voices back.”

For Rose Kroner, it has been a wonderful opportunity to work alongside her tutors. She says, “We don't get to see them as music therapists, so it's been very inspiring to watch and learn from them in professional practice. It's also been a great experience to work in a multidisciplinary team with speech and language therapists and the occupational therapy volunteers. Team work has also been really important and it's been very rewarding to get to know the choir members.”

Summing up her experience, Judit Soler Almendros says, “I was already a member of the UWE Singers and Chamber Choir at the CPA and I thought it would be a great opportunity to take part. I've been involved from the start, from the logistics of setting up the project to accompanying the choir on the piano and helping them to learn the songs. It's been a really fulfilling experience and great to see the members' progress and their confidence develop throughout the year.”

Other volunteers who've contributed to the success of the choir include Katharine Harris (co-director), Mel Thompson, Will Draper and Laura Cook.

Topping off a fantastic inaugural year for the choir was a performance this summer at Bristol's Colston Hall. As part of BBC Radio 3's In Tune, the group premiered Important Matters, a new work by composer and UWE Bristol, Senior Lecturer, Dr Liz Lane. The song was written for people with aphasia and lyrics were specially written by Jennifer Henderson with words and ideas from the choir members themselves.

The choir will next perform as part of the Bristol800 Weekender at the Bristol Festival of Ideas on Saturday 12 November 2016 from 13:00-14:00 at the Colston Hall. Singing and Aphasia: Meet the UWE ReVoice Choir. Admission to this event is free and places can be booked via the Festival of Ideas website.

The UWE Bristol ReVoice Choir meets during term time every Wednesday at Glenside Campus from 13:30 - 15:00. Places are limited, but for more information and to register an interest visit the CPA webpages.

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