‘Singing and Scatting’ with the Perth Speakability Group


Members of the Perth Speakability Group shared their singing talents at a musicality event in Perth Concert Hall.

Perth Speakability Group is a peer support group for people living with Aphasia. The celebration event is the culmination of Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust’s (THAT) ST/ART Project musicality programme, the first collaboration between the two groups.

Aphasia is a complex language and communication disorder resulting from damage to the language centres of the brain and can lead to word finding and reading difficulties. This damage may be caused by a stroke, a head injury, a brain tumour or another neurological illness.

The ST/ART project, which has been in place since 2004, provides creative engagement opportunities for stroke survivors, using participatory arts as part of their rehabilitation and recovery.

Singing coach Debra Salem, supported by THAT volunteer Annette McBride and Emma Neck, creative learning coordinator for music at Horsecross Arts, worked with participants over eight sessions to develop vocal exercises and expression techniques. They explored creativity and building peer support through group singing in a fun and enjoyable way.

Debra said, “The group has really grown in confidence and it has been great to see. We focused very specifically on sounds, vocal technique and stamina through our warm up exercises and short songs.  We worked on a jazz and blues arrangement that allowed us to combine and overlap lyrics and individual scatting.

“One of the participants is an accomplished harmonica player and we fully embraced this. We developed harmonies and arrangements for the longer pieces, getting to know each other through their choice of music whilst having great fun. The group has been wonderful to work with and we’ve really enjoyed this opportunity.”

Coordinator of Perth Speakability Group Brian Raine said, “Most of us weren’t very confident about singing, including me. We discovered it’s great for our mood and there are ways of participating that aren’t so reliant on words. Singing together is so enjoyable and we have made new friendships.”

THAT project coordinator Chris Kelly said, “It’s been great working with this group. We challenged their perceptions of what is possible to do and they gained so much confidence through singing. Being able to meet and work in the Concert Hall is an added bonus which has only been possible with the support of Horsecross Arts.”

THAT promotes the therapeutic value of arts-based programmes to enhance quality of life, to promote social inclusion and to empower the individual making an important contribution to their health and wellbeing.

For more information about the programme please contact Chris Kelly on 01382 835509.

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