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  • Southside

Making music for hospital kids sounds great

Friday, 13th April, 2018 7:59am
Making music for hospital kids sounds great

Gráinne Hope, the founder of Kids’ Classics.

Making music for hospital kids sounds great

Gráinne Hope, the founder of Kids’ Classics.

Fionnuala Walsh 

SOMETIMES words are not enough to comfort a child who has received impossible news, but music is. 

This is according to Gráinne Hope, founder of Kids' Classics, a non-profit organisation which brings professional music into hospitals and local communities, in partnership with the National Concert Hall.

Gráinne, who regularly visits St John’s Ward in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, recalls one teenage patient she met in cancer treatment who was keen to meet the musicians, even though they were scheduled for an important test that day. 

When they arrived to the ward the musicians were told that the patient had received difficult news, but that the patient still wanted them to visit.

The teenager had received news that they would start a new drug trial the following day and, as a result, plans to attend a St Patrick’s Day parade, with VIP treatment would have to be postponed.

“We knew what that meant, so as we walked into the room everyone understood,” Gráinne says. 

“I love the Hans Christian Andersen saying, ‘where words fail, music speaks’, and what could you say?

“There were no words to say other than to play music and drumming was their thing.

“They did this brilliant little riff and I asked could I capture that in a recording on my phone. 

“I was listening to it recently and noticed a little giggle at the end of it, I think we all landed on a different chord, it is a lovely memory to have.”

Tragically the patient has since passed away. 

“When I look back now, that musical interaction was like gold dust to me, where music was so important in that teen’s life,” Gráinne says.

“Someone at 16 knows the gravity of a treatment trial that they are about to start and they still wanted music. You can’t say no to that. 

“For me, I would play music with this teen over performing on a concert stage because you just see what it means to them and family.”

The idea for Kids’ Classics began in 2008 when Gráinne was studying for her Masters in America and she participated in a community performance at a local hospital.

She brought the idea to Ireland with her, hoping for a couple of weeks of funding. Kids' Classics is now approaching its 10th birthday and is officially a non-profit organisation.

The six-person team consists of two classical players, including Gráinne who is a cellist and a flautist, two traditional Irish players, playing Uilleann pipes, whistle, mandolin and banjo, and two folk singer/songwriters.

Gráinne says that for many families, a visit from Kids' Classics is an escape from a ward, like “a walk outside in your head when you can’t leave your child”.

She recalls one family who had a small child in long-term care, and three other little siblings who watched one of their performances.

“The mum said to me, ‘that’s the first time we’ve ever done anything as a family’. The younger child had always been in hospitals since they were born. 

“I just thought, ‘wow, if we can do this, the meaning that this visit has to a family, isn’t it amazing’,” she says.

“I remember a Director of Nursing once saying that live music can help give a voice to a child in a situation where they feel have very little control of their environment.”

Kids' Classics also run Musical Memories in nursing homes, Twinkle Twinkle Little Ears for maternity hospitals, and Medical Notes in general hospitals.

“When we play Twinkle Twinkle in a ward, we can often play it 10 times. But for every child, when you play it at their door, in their room, it’s for them and that’s what makes it special,” Gráinne says.

“At the other end of the spectrum of music programmes we deliver, we visit Nursing Homes, connecting through songs of the older generations. “


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