An Arts in Healthcare performance that transformed inpatient wards on a still summer night: A reflection from Lama Majaj
The Coburg Trolls Choir performed in peculiar spaces on the inpatients wards at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre last week. The night performance spontaneously emerged in response to the environment as members of the choir did not hesitate to sing in lifts, on stair cases, in lounges and in waiting areas transforming the space. Walkways travelled on a daily basis by patients, carers and staff became like musical playhouses. Singing a diverse and cultural repertoire the Trolls enchanted the space with world-music and tribal drumming.
A patient on the Neutropenic ward remarked;
“The bubble in Ward 7 South had the pleasure of a visit from The Coburg Trolls. In a place where infections are very strongly controlled, I found their enthusiasm, enjoyment of what they were doing and smiling faces extremely infectious. It sounded lovely, calming and relaxing and had me feeling lifted. Big thanks!!
Patients and carers appeared to connect in the face of medical uncertainty and hardship in a momentary transformation, a space freed from worry recalling what once had been and what a future might be. Couples connected, children joined the singing and others seemed to forget their pain. One patient stated: “Really lifted my spirits. Very enjoyable – should be more of it. Just the best therapy…” and another commented; “Very emotional, so beautiful & thoughtful through very tough days. Thank you”
The experience for the choir was also memorable and filled with meaning. Choir members expressed the healing potential of singing to cancer patients communicated in the following statements:
“So honored to be able to come and sing for you all and knowing that it helped ease your pain, lifted your spirits and soothed you is good to know and so pleased to hear. Lots of love & light. Would love to come back and sing again love, Carly. PS: it also soothed me, having had a sister with cancer. It healed my heart a bit.”
“I hope that the people in care enjoyed our singing. I certainly enjoyed sharing it….. I would say that the pleasure was all mine. Thank you” Katrina.
“This was a moving experience for me. My dad was in an isolation room 17 years ago and later passed away from Leukemia. I was shocked at how moved I was to be singing for families in the isolation rooms – it brought back painful memories but I also wished someone had been able to sing for me and my family a while ago. Thanks.”
“I found the experience of singing at the Olivia Newtown-John Cancer & Wellness Centre emotional and uplifting. It is so nice to be able to provide a pause to people’s pain, even if it’s just for a second & music unifies in happiness. I’m so glad to have been a part of it and can’t wait to come back.”
‘Bringing our songs and voices to a place like this makes everything sound different.’
“Sing to you behind the door
From where I am here to where you are there.”
“It’s a privilege to share music and to feel the strength and connections it can bring. We look forward to coming back soon.”
“It feels like a happy place – even though it can’t be always and it was a privilege to be able to join in and hopefully contribute.” Tom.
The Coburg Trolls’ repertoire embraces many world music genres, as well as original songs by Sue Johnson (award winning composer of Coco’s Lunch fame). Their first concert launched Maya Ward’s book ‘The Comfort of Water’- a Yarra river pilgrimage. They have also performed in many unusual place; from sunset songs under Coburg’s old bluestone bridges, to vocally lighting up the helix tree at Federation Square, under the Arts Centre ‘Wave’ sculpture for ‘Play Me I’m Yours’, ‘sing ups’ in inner city warehouses and not to mention the great resonance of Trades Hall loading bay.