Making music at Christenson

Jan DeGrass/Arts and Entertainment Writer / Staff writer
July 20, 2012 01:00 AM

From l to r: Musician Steve Wright, Christenson Village staff Nina Thumand, and resident Shirley Gurr.

A senior resident of a care home makes music when she simply touches an iPad programmed with a musical application. Another resident, usually withdrawn, recites and records a love poem he wrote for his wife years ago. One woman who has never played piano before sits down with a musician and learns a fragment. This creative program of activities is called Across the Lines and it's happening at the Good Samaritan's Christenson Village in Gibsons with the aid of a Sunshine Coast Community Foundation grant and two creative individuals.

During the six years that Bruce Devereux (manager of recreation and volunteer services) has worked with the residents of Christenson Village, he has learned the importance of providing them with creative activities that spark their minds and feed their souls.

There's lots of laughter in creation, he said.

He was inspired by American David Greenberger, a skilled interviewer of people with memory loss issues. Devereux hatched the idea for Across the Lines, a collaborative audio project using musical instruments, storytelling, poetry and the latest technology, for example, an iPad with its many apps.

This is right up Steve Wright's alley. Devereux first met Wright, a musician who works with sound design, at the Synchronicity Festival last year.

I saw his skill with music and creation and thought he would be a good guy for this project, Devereux said.

Since May, Devereux and Wright have been staging a series of workshops in which Christenson Village residents have the opportunity to play with a variety of different musical instruments piano, ukuleles, percussion and more as well as technological tools.

I think we both had a feeling that this could be a unique and special project right from the outset, said Wright So much of that comes from Bruce as he is so sincerely interested and dedicatedto his work there.

The music the residents create will be incorporated into an original score that will form the backdrop of a CD featuring spoken-word stories, quotes and interactions from the participants as they ruminate on a wide range of topics including family, friendship, love, loss, history and life.

The idea was to make a soundscape of Christenson Village, Dever-eux explained. You might hear a poem, some comment in the halls, the elevator bells, for example.

They would also include some of their previous Legacy recordings, oral histories of residents taken over time. It's a way of honouring the contributions of those residents who are no longer with us.

Most of the tracks recorded so far are between two and four minutes, recorded in two four-hour sessions. Then Wright begins a process of playing with that material and stretching some of it out, looping bits, chopping up others. It's kind of a spoken-word remix project.

I am surprised, too, by what happens and get excited, which fuels the direction and energy of the project, he said. As proud as I am of what has been mixed so far, this project is so not about me. I hope it inspires the residents and families of the individuals involved.

Devereux believes this sort of creative play and learning can help residents enjoy a better quality of life, improved mental well-being and a heightened sense of dignity and self worth.

The residents have been interacting in a way that even family members didn't think they would, he said.

Participant workshops and storytelling sessions will continue through July. The Across the Lines CD is due for release in October 2012. For more information, visit:

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