Time for some grandeur on the site. I dropped into Buckingham Palace this week to attend a reception for several charities whose Patron is Princess Alexandra. She’s a cultured person, and a regular Radio 3 listener, so it wasn’t a surprise that the group assembled represented the Wigmore Hall, Bournemouth Symphony and LPO Chorus. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was represented by the Alzheimer’s Society, whose own musical contribution gave this evening a warm-hearted but thoughtful vibe.
Like so many people, I and my sister looked after a parent with Alzheimers for many years, and found the Society’s advice and website very helpful. Just knowing it was there in times of stress was a great comfort. But I would have loved to take part in something like their Singing for the Brain scheme, which gives people with dementia and their carers a chance to 'let rip'. On this evening we heard some spirituals plus Annie’s Song, from their Croydon group, led by an inspiring and cheerful director, Peter Edwards. Wigmore Hall brought along their similarly-focused Singing with Friends, their repertoire a little more decorous as you might expect, but clearly with some fine people in their ranks, including a brilliant whistler.
Just for a moment leaving aside the particular needs of dementia sufferers and their carers (something I could rarely do when I was in that situation myself) I’m so glad that professional music management is at last beginning to turn its attention to older people's participation generally. On the road this week I learned about New Tricks an older adults’ service in Lincolnshire, and I hope many more will follow, especially in rural areas. The splendid COMA is about to stage its next international festival; and here and there, some late starters’ groups are flourishing. But the biggest venues, colleges, orchestras and opera companies in their outreach schemes, have yet to embrace fully this numerous 'third age' generation. It’s commonplace to see post-work people crowding into painting classes and book clubs. Classical music, as so often, has some catching up to do.