April 25, 2019, by Liz Cass

Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure

The University of Nottingham is set to feature in a new two-part series due to air next week.

On Thursday 2 and 9 May Our Dementia Choir with BAFTA-award winning actress Vicky McClure will be shown on BBC One.

Over the course of three months, the Line of Duty actress joined forces with the University of Nottingham and the UK’s leading scientists as she discovered the physical and emotional effects of music on the brain while meeting people with dementia and their families as she created a choir of people living with the condition.

Vicky has close personal experience of dementia, through caring for her Nana Iris, who died in 2015. During that period, and through her role with the Alzheimer’s Society, Vicky has seen first-hand how music and singing had affected dementia patients and those who love and care for them.

Now, she aims to spread the word on a much bigger scale. In this series she meets the scientists exploring pioneering techniques and cutting edge scanning technology in order to reveal how music can stimulate a brain damaged by dementia. And, bringing her choir together, they’ll put on the biggest show of their lives with the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy in our understanding of how music therapy can help people with dementia.

In the first episode, Vicky starts the search for her choir meeting people with different types of dementia and at different stages. The youngest choir member is 31-year-old Daniel who was diagnosed with a rare form of genetic Alzheimer’s two years ago. A former drummer, Dan takes part in a cutting edge experiment to see how his brainwaves are affected when he tries to play the drums again.

She also meets Chris, 67, and his wife Jane. Chris was diagnosed three years ago with frontotemporal dementia. This affects the part of the brain that controls behaviour making him sometimes unpredictable. From the first rehearsals, all held in the University of Nottingham’s music department, Chris is desperate to get involved – and even volunteers to sing a solo.

Choir rehearsals have continued at the University following the documentary with a fundraising appeal set up to provide weekly singing lessons for members. The target is to raise £3,000 to enable the group to continue for the next six months. Find out more and donate here.

In the programme choir members are kitted out with special wrist sensors that measure key changes to their bodies during each rehearsal, providing data to review at the end of the choir project, but also to contribute to a wider three year study by Prof Seb Crutch from the University College London.

Vicky attended the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre (SPMIC) at the University and her own brain is scanned while she listens to different noises, and songs, to observe how sound stimulates her brain.

The team at SPMIC also contributed to MEG scans on a few of the patients and Vicky.

Meanwhile, under the guidance of choirmaster Mark De-Lisser, the choir sets its sights on their first public performance to celebrate the marriage of one of its members.

Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure, BBC One, Thursday, May 2 at 8pm.

Posted in Arts