Rosie Bergonzi is one of 8 artists working with Spitalfields Music and Julian West on the Creative Encounters Programme. Rosie shares her thoughts on creating digital messages of kindess to care homes and residents during the current COVID-19 lockdown.
My name is Rosie, I’m a percussionist and one of the musicians on the Creative Encounters team. Creative Encounters is a three year programme aiming to improve the well-being of care home residents, including those living with dementia, and improve the quality of care and relationships in care homes acorss Tower Hamlets. I’m part of a team of multi-disciplinary artists who work with residents to co-create music, art, and movement, building connections and rich creative interactions, supported by staff training and development. This means entering the space, sharing instruments, materials and being very tactile – all things that are impossible in the current climate.
We were given the opportunity to adapt our practice digitally and the team got thinking to how we could keep the essential elements of what we do, such as improvisation and combining art forms. We know that care homes have been massively affected by this crisis, and the staff and residents we have grown very close to are going through a very challenging time. As we are unable to enter the homes and have limited contact with the residents and staff we work with, the team really wanted to offer something to provide some comfort, solace and music to those working so hard during this time, and the residents who will be missing our programme.
Our first offering were musical postcards. Each musician created a minute of music on the theme of ‘Thinking of you’. I decided to use my handpan, as I’d loved using it in sessions with the participants. Many people had been interested in its unusual sound and commented on the way it fills space, something I thought appropriate for the theme. My music was then overlaid by footage shot by another practitioner, creating another example of togetherness as she responded to my music. This was then emailed into the home so they could use it in any form they felt was best.
For our second response we wanted to work together more closely, so we split into smaller groups. We wanted to replicate those spontaneous moments of magic where music is improvised in our sessions. The way everyone is totally present in that moment of creation is something I miss so I was excited to try that digitally. I recorded two minutes of music with an eye to different textures. Instead of filling the space as I had in my solo, I left gaps, imagining what the other players would be able to do in them. Our theme was Bounces, so I played in a jaunty cheerful manner. This was then passed onto the other instrumentalists who layered their responses before a video was added. The visuals of paint on a canvas perfectly complemented the music, and it really felt like a shared endeavor.
We have one more response to work on and this will be the most tactile. We’re in the process of creating audio that can be captured by a card and physically sent to the home. We chose ‘Over the Rainbow’ as our tune as it’s well known and may prompt a little singing along!
It has been wonderful to be able to focus on what’s at the heart of our practice, co-creation. Even though we’re isolated in our separate houses we’re still able to come together and make music. I can’t wait till we’re back working with residents and staff in person. Until then, our hearts and thoughts are with them.