These sweet musical moments that SAMS organizes in CHSLDs


In the first row of spectators at the flute, keyboard and voice concert given by Valérie Belzile and Vincent Hamel, at the CHSLD Grace Dart, in Montreal, an old lady, the oldest in the whole establishment, bangs on the table with his hands smiling, to the beat of the music.

We are in one of the concerts offered here twice a month by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (SAMS). In the audience, on the ground floor of the treatment center, most of the spectators arrived in wheelchairs. Crippled, often completely paralyzed, their bodies crammed into the back of their chair, sometimes aphasic and suffering from major cognitive loss, they welcome music with the strength they have left.

But what they have left is precious. At 101, this English-speaking native of England, who followed her husband here in the army, hardly sees anymore. “Since I’m blind, it’s really difficult,” she says. She remembers, however, her young years when she sang in the choir of the church. “At the beginning, they put me in the first row, in front. But afterwards, as I sang badly, they sent me back, she laughs. I started forward and ended up in the basement! »

In the last row, Stephen Brome dominates the audience with his bass voice, which accompanies the interpretation of O Sole Mio! by Valérie Belzile and Vincent Hamel.

I loved dancing, the man said looking at his legs trapped in a wheelchair. I come from Barbados. I would walk onto the dance floor, and I would dance…I would make the girls dance…”

The head nurse told me that she prescribed less painkillers when there was music

When he hears the music, another resident, Louis Cornez, thinks of his sister who once played the flute. Built like a colossus, with a big white beard, strong in the use of his legs, it is he who will play Santa Claus in the corridors of the establishment, over the next few days.

For Valérie Belzile, each of these small demonstrations of the effect of music on the audience, each weak beat of the fingers, each smile, each humming is a priceless reward.

» I love that. I feel that we have a really privileged contact with people, she says. I have the impression that we manage to communicate in a certain way, to make them disconnect from reality which can sometimes be difficult. I have the impression that when we are together, we share a unique moment. »

Less painkillers

Valérie Belzile also works in the palliative care units which receive the dying. “Palliative care, we are in a completely different energy. Me, I see it more as a comfort, to help relax, to stay calm, on the side of anxiety and pain. »

In the context of palliative care, musicians’ appearances are shorter, she says. “I wander through the hallways. They hear the music when I approach their room, but right now I’m not going in unless invited due to COVID. »

Either way, the music finds its way to the soul, often with startling results.

» TO [l’hôpital] Santa Cabrini, in palliative care, the head nurse told me that she prescribed fewer painkillers when there was music, ”says Valérie Belzile.

“Music is a vehicle for words, too,” adds Vincent Hamel. There are people who have lost their speech, who no longer know how to express themselves, but who will sing Gloria on the rhythm, with the words, even if they are aphasic. Even for them there must be something when they hear the music that they don’t feel quite lost. »

Present time

It is entirely in the present moment that the encounter with the music takes place. That moment when you start smiling when you hear Dance in Saint-Dilon or to cry with theHail Mary.

Once the instruments are silenced, it is an often difficult reality that awaits residents of CHSLDs. When we talk to him about the Christmas party, our centenarian, who was humming a few minutes ago, suddenly has tears in his eyes. « I will be alone, because everyone around me is dead, » she said.

“Sometimes people don’t remember what they did once they returned to their room,” notes Valérie Belzile. “But they know they had a good day,” adds Vincent Hamel.

For the holiday season alone, SAMS organized 120 concerts this year for vulnerable people.

“We are mainly present with seniors in institutions, such as CHSLDs, says Florence Troncy, director of development, partnerships and philanthropy at SAMS. Our artists also visit hospitals, palliative care homes, centers for women in difficulty, mental health institutes, and other care settings. »

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