L looks pleased to be offered a baton. He sits up in his chair, looks round the room and confidently conducts the band of assembled musicians, shaping the fragments of existing sound into solid phrases, bringing people in, showing dynamics, making eye contact with his musicians and thoroughly in his element. He is in total control of the direction the music takes and conducts with great confidence, technique and authority; skilled and sensitive in equal measure. If you looked into the room at this moment it would not cross your mind that the conductor might be living with dementia.
C has been on our radar ever since we first visited the care home several weeks ago. She paces up and down the corridors with her distinctive gait, bright eyes gazing into the distance and amazingly smooth, youthful skin. We have slowly begun to connect with her and notice her watching outside the room as she glides past or pausing at the window while the music group is happening. Last week she entered the activity room for the first time after the music session, sitting down for a chat and then taking her leave again. Today, while lively, rhythmic music is playing, she enters the room through the open door, dances round the circle with a spark in her eyes and a spring in her step, looking delighted, and then leaves again. Everyone in the room watches, entranced. C decided when to enter the room, C decided to dance and C decided when to leave.
These two beautiful moments are illustrations of what Creative Encounters is all about. We do not have a formula to follow that creates the conditions in which extraordinary things happen, but by being open, genuine, sensitive and searching we know and trust that they sometimes will.
Alongside the kind of show-stopping highlights described above, Creative Encounters is about the smaller things; checked slippers dancing, perfectly choreographed to the music, laughter where before there was anxiety, quiet where there was chatter, an illuminating smile, a scarf being folded with great care, a whoop in a perfect space in the melody, one hand reaching for another to kiss.