Real Lives

On the red carpet and in the spotlight for Jewish Care residents

Pauline with the clapperboard taking part in Lifesongs the Movie at Jewish Care's Sandringham

Pawel Moczulewski, Innovation and Activities Lead for Arts, Disabilities and Dementia, Jewish Care

We have been working with professional filmmaker and artist in residence, Bob Karper, at Jewish Care’s Anita Dorfman House care home. Bob has been working with 50 residents and staff over six months on the film Lifesongs: The Movie, truly person-centred project recognising the unique connection of each individual to their musical memories.

The film is part of Jewish Care’s innovative arts programmes that has enhanced the lives of the residents of Jewish Care’s Anita Dorfman House care home at Sandringham. They have been part of the creative project and have loved sharing the ways in which their lives have been enriched by music in a culmination of interviews with residents, some of whom are living with dementia, who also chose the title and collaborated on the final edit of the film too.

It was amazing to see the residents transform as they shared their favourite musical memories with Bob and with family members who have joined them. Their faces and body changed as they reminisced, listening to their favourite music and performers, transported in time to their younger selves, they relive special musical moments in their lives through the power of music.

One resident in the film, Rena says, “I was lucky enough to grow up with music on both my father and mother’s side. My mum and her sister performed at the Palladium. Dad used to play at the musical halls with a washboard, spoon and a saw, he had a lovely voice. It was marvellous, you just couldn’t believe anyone could do that.

“As a young girl, I would sing and dance on the table during war time I’d sing things like ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’. Later on, I sang in my father’s pub. I loved singing songs like Every Time We Say Goodbye and Night and Day by Gershwin and Cole Porter

“One day, after the war, my uncle told me we were going to see someone special. It was Sammy Davis Junior, he was amazing. My favourite Burt Bacharach is ‘What the World Needs Now’,” Rena says, singing along as she watches an early performance of the song. “And for my 100th birthday,” she continues, “I would pick Michael Buble to sing, we’ve been to see him and he’s absolutely wonderful.”

“Ruth Eva had been a performer and she really opened up on camera and her life has been fascinating. A talented dancer, Ruth Eva, now 91, left Germany in 1932. She began to dance when she was young; first ballet and then modern dance, accompanied by a pianist in the studio where she practiced who she says, “could play anything’.

In the film, her gestures are graceful as she watches clips of famous performers dancing her favourite pieces and she movingly shares her experiences and deep love for music and performance.

“My favourite piece to dance to when I was young was Strauss’ The Blue Danube, and then later I became a professional dancer. I danced Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, it felt like it was from another world. Later, when I married, I took my husband and concerts and brought my children up with classical music. When I came to London in 1966 I went to teach at the Royal Academy of Art and was lucky enough to teach Imelda Staunton, Kenneth Brannagh and Raph Fiennes.”

Another resident, Stella, shares her memories of Sunday afternoon dances with Macabi, “It was all jive and jazz, it was lovely,” she says. “Later, we all screamed when we went to watch Sinatra, we were young!

“My late husband and I danced together to Sinatra songs. I saw Frank Sinatra live at the midnight matinee. It was such a wonderful experience, it was totally dark, someone saw us to our table with a torch and we ordered drinks and there were drums, and Sinatra came out and sang. It was a fantastic evening.”

Bob’s wonderful film weaved the interviews together so beautifully, putting our residents in the spotlight, sharing the memories, photos and songs that mean the most to them.  At the red carpet screening at Jewish Care’s Sandringham, everyone loved participating in the interactive questions, engaging movie goers and creating a sense of shared cultural connection.

There was laughter, joy and smiles from our residents and their families as they watched the film which they now have to keep. It has been a wonderful, meaningful experience for the residents and the families, celebrating their unique memories and lives and so good for the stimulation and wellbeing for everyone involved.

Kirsty

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