A project started during lockdown has brought nearly a thousand music and dance performances to people in care homes across the UK, and is set to continue in the future.
Over the last two years, Connecting Stars has provided live, virtual, interactive performances for residents in over 100 care homes. The project was developed by Constella OperaBallet in response to the pandemic, and continues to bring high-quality performances to elderly and disabled care home residents, many of whom are still isolated.
Connecting Stars was the brainchild of Constella’s Artistic Director, Leo Geyer, who came up with the idea after talking to his own grandmother and playing his bassoon for her via Zoom to cheer her up during the first weeks of the pandemic.
“Virtual technology makes it possible to bring brilliant musicians and dancers to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to benefit from such top-quality performances. Although it was our response to the exceptional situation at the time, it has become apparent that this is a successful model for the future.”
“As well as watching a performance which has been specially tailored for the audience, the care home residents have the opportunity to chat to our artists and make requests, as well as join performances with clapping, singing and even dancing”
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy high quality performances, and until recently, it’s not really been possible for care home residents to do that. Connecting Stars is one of the silver linings of the pandemic, and we plan to continue into the future.”
The scheme has expanded from care homes for the elderly to include disabled people and others who are isolated due to health conditions. Performances have reached people across the UK from Belfast to Brighton.
Care home residents have watched performances from artists who work with the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and Glyndebourne, including mezzo-sporano Rachel Maby, clarinettist Antanas Makštutis, violinists Henry Rankin and Philippa Mo, accordionist Ilona Suomalainen, and dancer Alice Oakley-Jones.
Care home staff have commented on the talented performers, the interaction with the audience, and the benefits the performances bring to the wellbeing of residents. One resident described a performance as a ‘burst of sunshine’.
Sherrie Highley at Lee Mount Care Home said:
“We have been using the Constella Opera ballet for a good few weeks now. We have had some really good performances and I can’t quite believe how much variety they have to offer. It is a fantastic idea and really enriching for our residents. To book a performer in can be expensive, meaning our residents may have to miss out on other events or possible activities, but with Constella, they have the chance to experience live performances regularly. Music or performing arts are so beneficial to the mental health of elderly people, so honestly, we couldn’t be more thankful for our experiences so far.”
Connecting Stars performances are currently free, thanks to funding from Arts Council England, and can be booked via Constella’s website. To continue providing free performances, the company has launched a donations campaign.