Musical memories: Care home resident with dementia recites the verses of his career as a professional saxophonist to mark World Music Day
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Gabriel Court, a branch of ACI Care that specialises in residential, respite and dementia care, has been encouraging its residents to share stories and memories about music, with Roy Tosh’s anecdotes particularly striking a chord with other residents and carers.
Roy's journey into the world of music began at a young age when he discovered the saxophone, albeit after initially aspiring to play the clarinet. Reminiscing about his early days, Roy fondly recalls the joy of attempting to play along with the hits on pirate radio, with early experiences shaping his deep passion for music.
After working as a potato picker, Roy eventually found his way to the saxophone when his clarinet needed new reeds, before eventually selling the instrument to purchase a ring for his now-wife, Jessie.
In 1970, The Roy Bishop Sound was born, named serendipitously after a bishop’s chess piece that happened to be in Roy's hand during a discussion about different names. The band began as a three-piece ensemble, and over time, it grew in numbers, incorporating a bass player, guitarists, and singers.
Roy, 87, who now lives with dementia, spoke fondly of his musical past: “I’m left with so many memories of happy times and a keen ear and passion for music. I still remember attending the concert of one of my biggest influences, Victor Silvester OBE, a musician from the British dance band era. The lights went down on an empty stage and when they came back on the piano player was sitting there and began playing, captivating the audience. I knew then I wanted to perform in similar venues, and I went on to have a lovely career.”
Music has a unique ability to stimulate memories and emotions, allowing individuals to reconnect with their past and evoke positive feelings whilst also helping to reduce agitation and improve mood — especially in those living with dementia. Reminiscing about these past times on World Music Day helps individuals to engage in meaningful conversations, promoting a sense of identity and belonging.
Dale Knighton, Activities Coordinator at Gabriel Court, said: “Talking to Roy about his past in music has made it clear to me that music has a great impact on people's memories and emotions. It’s been lovely hearing Roy share these memories and listen to some of the music of his life. Music is generational and is a great way to open up someone's world."