Had an interesting experience yesterday (Wednesday). As part of work, I went to check out Musica Viva’s program of music in hospitals. So I ended up at Westmead Children’s Hospital, where the musical group Pastance were performing. I was a bit sceptical of how much different music would make to a hospital, but I was blown away within about five minutes.
When I first arrived in the big foyer area of Westmead, there were children crying, people scurrying around, and just a general feeling of either busyness or the quiet stress of people who can’t get in to see a doctor yet (but are obviously worried about something, or they wouldn’t be at the hospital).
So when Pastance came out, with a South American harp and two recorders and started to play the most delicate of medieval folk music, a calm just fell across the place. It’s not the kind of music I’d normally go out and buy, but when I heard it, it seemed like the type of music the world needs, but doesn’t realise it does.
Looking around the hospital, I could just see people looking a bit more relaxed. Some of the parents with kids sat down near the musicians and watched them, and the kids were absolutely transfixed. It’s funny – adults could walk right by, and not notice. No child could.
Afterwards, I got to accompany the group round some of the wards, which was an interesting sight (and also rather heartbreaking for some people).
All the hospital staff that I spoke to (apart from the front reception, who thought the music was a bit too loud) commented on the peace and calm that the music brought to the environment. It made sense. Westmead puts a lot of effort into the visual appeal of the place (with a lot of artworks hung around the building), but is only just starting to think about the sounds that get made in a hospital.
Fascinating experience, and I hope that in the future, there will be more hospitals that continue with this kind of program.