My love affair with music, all kinds of music, began at a very early age. When we went out shopping, Mum would leave me in the area of the store which sold what were once referred to as record players and records. I would happily stay there for as long as it took Mum to find what she was looking for elsewhere. I’m not sure that would be allowed today. I’d probably be taken into care.
As a young child, music was everywhere. I inherited a collection of 78 records from Mum and from my grandparents. These included Perry Como’s Magic Moments, which has featured before on these pages, and a recording by Kitty Kallen which has been playing on to my internal jukebox this week, Little Things Mean a Lot.
I wouldn’t call it a classic though it was popular enough to top the US charts in 1954. I remember the words making an impression on me in those far-off black and white days. For a child of four or five, “little things mean a lot” made sense, in a way that more sophisticated song lyrics like Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep didn’t. I think the song has been in my head again this week because I was reminded of the importance of littel things at the Alzheimer’s Society Conference. Let me explain.
The theme of the conference was action. It’s Dementia Action Week, a week set aside to shine a light on the disease. The week used to be known as Dementia Awareness Week, but now the focus is on action. Awareness isn’t enough. We must do things to change the world for people affected by dementia. These things can be little – hence, perhaps, why the song is playing.
The conference reminded me what a powerful force music can be for those with dementia. My highlight was a performance by a charity called Music in Mind of a piece of work entitled Hidden Voice – Giving a Voice to People Living with Dementia. I won’t try to describe the impact it had on me except to say that, strangely, I felt reunited with Mum for a short while. Go to their website if you have a few moments. Those moments won’t be wasted: https://www.musicinmind.org.uk/projects/
Music crosses boundaries between people living with dementia and those closest to them in a way that, sometimes, words cannot. It happened for Mum and I, increasingly as she became less able to communicate in other ways. Music would always bring a smile to her lips and a gleam in her eyes.
For a few moments, as we sang along with Perry, all was well.
Music won’t cure dementia but it can, and will for some, make life a little better. And little things mean a lot.