I don’t mind admitting that the first night after my stroke, I cried and cried, and kept the rest of the ward awake. My right side had gone, and with it any chance of continuing my music. I played French Horn, every thing in the brass band except trombone, and piano accordion. I’d played with the Midland Youth Orchestra, and with my brother had won a European wide contest on the accordions for duetists. So I hope you can judge that music was/is important. That was March 2005.
I’m bloody minded, and gave the occupational therapists a run for their money. I totally refused /blanked out any attempt to get me to the keyboard. Music making has gone, dead and buried, and I had already grieved my loss, my friend.
Then, Kaarina my wife suggested that we could go to church and I could sing there. I have an intellectual problem with joining a church choir. The music’s OK, but going to church is about belief – not music making, and I continued my opposition. But it set me thinking, and while visiting St. Mary’s for a concert, I asked friends about choirs where I live. The answers didn’t seem too promising, as one did not tackle the repertoire that interested me, while the other sounded too stuck up to accept a half body with no stamina and no voice.
Well, I was wrong. In October, K. found the details of a choral society, and I phoned up the secretary. “Come along – you’ll be most welcome”. Tuesday evening, I was pushed in and met the conductor. “I don’t want to sing in the concerts, nor embarrass you, but can I sit in?”. I explained that as a horn player, I could hear the notes in my head, and hold a line. (Horn players can all do this. It’s impossible to play the horn unless you can hear the note first, unlike the pianist who can just plonk a note down and it’s always in tune).
I HAVE to share with fellow sufferers the benefits of singing. Forget my rather purist musical spin on things. Instead just think of what the body has to do. And never mind the order, all of these effects are important:
- ·Getting out of the house. Every Tuesday evening, rain wind or just cold, we went and climbed 3 stairs, and fought a very small lift, and the uneven pavements, and went down the stairs backwards – using both legs and a wheel chair
- ·Sitting up. You can’t sing with a bent back, or scrunched up stomach. You have to sit erect; using the muscles on both sides of the back and neck
- ·Deep breathing. To make the voice work, you have to take deep breaths, and make the diaphragm squeeze – both sides
- ·Being a music stand. The music that we sang came in a book. So I had to make my right hand support the book, specially when turning over the pages. This gave work to my shoulder, both parts of the arm, the wrist and fingers. Of all the effort, this was and remains the greatest and most painful.
- ·Diction. Yes, my mouth had gone on one side, so getting the lyrics out is a new ball game. Not only must you say the words, but they have to be in time to the music and everyone else.
- ·Laughing and meeting people. It is impossible to overstate the importance of getting out and meeting people.
So you fellow sufferers, whether you sing a rousing chorus of Eskimo Nell, or whatever your kids are dancing to, or a Sinatra number at the local’s Kareoki night, try to get up and out, and sing. It will do you so much good. The first rehearsal, I could only survive until the mid break. 6 Months later, I took part in my first concert, which involved a 2 and a half hour rehearsal, followed by the concert of 2 hours that evening. Yup, I was dead for the next two or three days, but it sure beats sitting at home trying to decide what to watch on the oggle box.