Founded by musicians and Arts & Health practitioners Sharon Murphy and Sadhbh O’Sullivan, Embrace Music is a social enterprise on a mission to provide far-reaching opportunities for engaging with music. During 2020, Embrace ran over 40 livestream music sessions for nursing homes, home carers and stay-at-home music lovers all over Ireland.
Participants of the Embrace Music Livestream Series included nursing home residents and activities coordinators from over 25 nursing homes around the country as well as home carers, members of local community choirs and music groups, and various other individuals who were either retired or working from home.
Embrace Music was founded in the early days of Covid-19 with the aims of:
- Connecting people through music, particularly the older population
- Offering widespread, uplifting opportunities to engage with the arts
- Providing a consistent outlet that people could rely on every week during the pandemic
- Alleviating the effects of the loss of routine that had been brought upon many older people, including those living with dementia and their carers
- Setting up an opportunity for digital engagement that was as accessible as possible to older people at a time when in-person engagement was not an option.
The primary goal of the Embrace Music Livestream Series was to facilitate connection between older people. After some trial and error it was decided that Facebook Live was the most user-friendly option.
Before the first session, a digital leaflet was disseminated amongst healthcare contacts connected with nursing homes and individuals in the target demographic. This promotional tool was widely shared by organisations including Nursing Homes Ireland and HSE Health & Wellbeing.
In designing the initial sessions, the artists drew on their experience as musicians in healthcare settings. It immediately became clear that the sessions would be highly interactive, with song requests and reminiscence taking place in the comments section. Subsequent sessions were driven by participant interactions and song choices, with the facilitator structuring the hour to ensure the overall mood remained uplifting.
One of the main challenges was developing relationships with key workers who could enable others to participate. A postal promotion project, sending postcards to activities coordinators in 300 nursing homes nationwide, helped to some degree.
In aiming for a high level of cultural enrichment, the sing-along segments are punctuated by the following elements:
Each week, poems are selected based on requests for favourites, alongside poetry composed by participants and members of a local writer’s group.
Participants are actively invited to move to the music, and recently a dedicated movement segment has been introduced.
Storytelling & Reminiscence
An element of storytelling has naturally arisen as the facilitators delve into the history of songs, sparking memories and conversations. The artists have also incorporated the sharing of written stories, articles and community reminiscence.
Requests for long-forgotten songs has led to the reintroduction, contextualisation and discussion of many beautiful pieces of music; an activity that is as beneficial to the artists as the participants.
Contemporary Song Introduction
In singing songs by contemporary artists from Ireland and beyond, the aim is to challenge the concept of what an intended audience is, and to broaden the listening possibilities for those that have restricted choices.
Over 40 live music sessions were broadcast from the Embrace Music Facebook page throughout 2020, including a special guest appearance from Charlie McGettigan and two festive sessions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Songbook and Video Series
In December 2020, Embrace designed a 12 Days of Christmas songbook with accompanying videos, which were delivered to 1000 older people around Co Kildare and shared further afield via social media.
Charity Album Showcasing Local Artists
Embrace also coordinated a charity album called ‘Calming Covers’ in April 2020, showcasing 10 Kildare musicians and raising over €1300 for the Kildare Samaritans.
- A participant survey was shared via email and social media.
- A record was kept of feedback received in the comments sections.
- The facilitators created a shared document which was updated on a weekly basis to keep track of each setlist.
- The facilitators held regular Zoom meetings to reflect on feedback and plan for future sessions.
The participant surveys were short, prioritising easy access for their targeted demographic. There were five questions; three multiple choice and two open-ended.
The words that arose repeatedly in the survey were ‘uplifting’, ‘interactive’ and ‘sense of community’. Some useful suggestions were made which will be incorporated in future; one nursing home suggested that lyrics from a selection of songs be shared for printing in advance of each session.
'As we are unable to have live performances due to lockdown, the interaction is greatly appreciated. The residents love hearing their names being called out.'
'Wonderful feeling of connectivity and a great space to switch out from all of the negative news and sense of isolation during these unprecedented times.'
'Provides relaxation, connection, a chance for celebration and fun, and an escape from all that’s going on at the moment.'
The response to this project has led Embrace Music to consider carrying the digital element of their work forward into the post-Covid world, in order to continue providing musical engagement for those who cannot get out to participate in person.
Documentation & Dissemination
The results of the survey, along with participant feedback received throughout the course of 2020, are currently being compiled into a short report.
This report will be made freely available for participants to view and distributed to partaking care facilities, funders and stakeholders (Creative Ireland, Kildare County Council Arts Office, BM Stairlifts), as well as organisations and individuals who have endorsed and promoted the project (including Nursing Homes Ireland, Alzheimer Society of Ireland, HSE Health & Wellbeing and various public healthcare workers).
Date of Publication
March 2020 - ongoing
BM Stairlifts, Creative Ireland
Sadhbh O’Sullivan, Sharon Murphy
Mental Health, Older People, Primary Care/ Community Health
Nature of Project