A STAY in hospital can be a lonely and worrying time for patients, especially those who are confined to wards long-term.
But an Edinburgh-based charity has made its mission to brighten up the day of thousands of people by arranging concerts in health facilities across the country.
Music in Hospitals Scotland provided almost 1800 performances in hospitals, hospices, care homes, day centres and special needs schools last year.
This is more than entertainment. The therapeutic benefits of music - in both playing and listening - are well established.
The charity hires professional musicians for each show and offers a wide range of styles - from classical recitals to more contemporary covers of chart hits by the likes of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.
“We perform anywhere where people normally wouldn’t have access to live performances,” said chief executive Alison Frazer.
We perform anywhere people wouldn’t normally have access to live performancesAlison Frazer, chief executive
“We have around 70 small groups who perform regularly - soloists, duos, trios and one or two quartets. That includes folk groups, ceilidh bands, musical covers. We even have one who we call our boyband as they deliver pop music for children.”
Musicians booked by the charity must first pass a rigorous audition. An ability to interact with the audience is considered as important as playing proficiency.
“The majority of the concerts are for older audiences,” continued Frazer. “The musicians must be able to reach out to people who may be frail or not really able to interact physically but engaged in other ways.”
Music in Hospitals began in England in 1948 and was established north of the border in 1980.
Its performers - many of whom perform dozens of show each year for the charity - are well-known to patients and staff alike.
The charity must raise two-thirds of its annual budget, although it currently receives some funding from the Scottish Government. Many hospitals and care units contribute towards costs, as do most “but not all” local authorities in Scotland.
“However, there are many places with no funds at all that are given concerts free of charge,” added Frazer.
“We try to spread our income streams around so we are not overly reliant upon one source.”
The charity will enter a new period at the end of the year when Frazer steps down from her role as chief executive after 20 years in charge.
She cites an ambition to host more regular concerts in the same venues, allowing longer-term patients the greatest benefit, rather than on an occasional basis.
“It helps both patients and staff when we can return time and time again. There is a cumulative benefit,” she said.