Our Dementia Choir at Christmas 2021 (BBC) – magic of music returns some sparkle

Dementia Choir at ChristmasThe actress Vicky McClure revisited some of those who took part in her Dementia Choir concert in 2019 and finds the pandemic has taken an emotional toll.

Betty, who is 84, thought her devoted granddaughter Kellie was keeping her prisoner. That is what Alzheimer’s under lockdown conditions does to you. She was reminded of the happy time two years ago, forming a choir of people living with similar conditions and putting on a show at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. “Best thing I’ve ever done,” says Betty that memory still lodged firmly in her increasingly porous mind. “And we all enjoyed it.”

When it was filmed, there had already been six months of life under pandemic conditions and, by and large, the participants have not fared well since. Mask-wearing makes it even more difficult for them to identify people; the lack of routine and structure confuses and disturbs; and if, like Betty, you do not and cannot retain the reasons for the curtailment of your freedom, it feels like forcible incarceration. But when they start singing, the words come to her and she joins in.

The London Coliseum offers its stage and choirmaster Mark De-Lisser returns to coach people – via video call and in person, as varying government guidelines stipulate – in the singing of Bring Me Sunshine. On the night, it comes. Joshua Bloom from English National Opera stands to offer help, but, once the music starts, the people find the words – and maybe even, for a brief and precious moment, themselves. They sparkle – perhaps not as brightly as they did last time seen on stage, but a small, shining transformation takes place.

Other things

Jay Flynn’s Virtual Pub Quiz has scooped a Guinness World Record after pulling in 180,000 players in a single night.

The surprise lockdown hit, which sees amateur quizzers pit their wits against the former pub landlord on his YouTube channel, even featured Stephen Fry, actor and comedian, as co-host.

Jay’s quiz has raised more than £140,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK and over £300,000 for charities during the last seven weeks.