THE uplifting strains of live music from a top orchestral duo are striking a joyful note with hospital patients.
Two accomplished players from the NEW Sinfonia orchestra are making regular visits to the busy rehabilitation unit at Wrexham Maelor Hospital to perform a selection of favourites ranging from jazz numbers to traditional Welsh tunes.
Patients who have benefited from them say they look forward to the weekly 90-minute sessions which help pass the time and often bring back some golden memories.
Members of staff also enjoy the mini concerts so much that they often sing along to familiar tunes.
The musical interludes are the brainchild of 29-year-old Rob Guy who founded NEW Sinfonia along with his younger brother Jonathan, 27, in 2011 to showcase the “fabulous classical musical talent” in the region.
The brothers, who come from Wrexham, both studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Rob said: “Last year we did a series of similar performances for patients in the renal dialysis unit at Wrexham Maelor and they went down very well.
“The current sessions in the rehabilitation unit have been arranged specially with the hospital and are funded by the CultureStep programme through Arts & Business Cymru, which is designed to encourage new sponsorship and develop established business engagement with the arts.
“Tesni Homes, Clifford Jones Timber Companies, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board and NEW Sinfonia have received investment from the Arts & Business Cymru’s Culture Step to strengthen and develop their creative partnerships. NEW Sinfonia are delivering a music residency featuring performances and sessions at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital for patients on the Rehabilitation Ward.
“We’ve so far done four of the 10 sessions we’re booked for in the unit and we go in every Wednesday afternoon.
“There’s usually two members of NEW Sinfonia involved. We take our instruments and music stands with us and just set up in the various bays within the unit to play for the patients.
“We perform a broad selection of light classical music, jazz and songs from the shows.”
Soon after Rob, on viola, and Jonathan, on clarinet, struck up the first tune during one recent impromptu concert in the unit a request came in from 85-year-old patient Ann Booth from Rhosddu in Wrexham.
She said: “I asked them to play the music to the Can Can dance for me as it’s one of my favourites. They did and I loved it. I even found myself trying to kick my legs a bit in time to the music.
“I’m in the unit recovering after being quite poorly and when the musicians come in it really helps to cheer me up. They play some very nice tunes and I love it.”
Another appreciative audience member was 79-year-old Nancy Bassett Jones from Wrexham who said: “I had a stroke 10 weeks ago but I’m now doing quite well.
“To have the musicians coming is just wonderful and they play some fantastic tunes. It really cheers you up and it’s become the highlight of my week.”
Florence Tomlinson, 84, from Rhosddu in Wrexham is another big fan of the NEW Sinfonia visitors. She said: “I’m in the unit recovering from a very bad infection and it’s good to have them coming in to play for us every week.
“I like music and jazz tunes are my favourites, which they play quite a lot of. I like to join in and sing along with them whenever I know the words.”
Rob added: “The music helps break up the monotony of the day for people in the unit. We really enjoy coming and we find it’s quite a humbling experience for us.
“The patients love it, judging by the different comments we get from them, and so do the staff and we often find them singing along with the music.
“We had one lady who started to cry when she recognised the song we were playing, so it obviously brought back some happy memories for her.
“There are lots of talented young musicians from North East Wales, which is why we created NEW Sinfonia as a professional orchestra for them to play in.
“It’s a flexible group of anything between two and 45 musicians and we tailor the number according to the different scenarios we play in.
“We are becoming known for playing at major events like the North Wales International Music Festival but this gets us right into the heart of the community.”
This NEW Sinfonia music residency has been arranged through the Health Board’s ‘Creative Well’ programme for the Arts in Health and Well-being. Project coordinator Andrea Davies said: “Creative Well aims to put the arts at the heart of healthcare. We prioritise clinical areas where access to the arts, and in this case sensitively chosen high quality life music, will directly inspire and benefit our patients and improve their experience of the Health Board’s services
Staff Nurse Jo Ellis who works on the rehabilitation unit, loves the sessions.
She said: “The unit provides rehabilitation for anyone who needs a little help to get back on their feet after surgery, a stroke or general illness.
“The patients and the staff just love them coming and some of us have even been known to sing along. The music they play cheers everyone up and is also quite relaxing. We all think it’s a lovely idea and we look forward to them coming to the unit.”