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Music to their ears: nursing home residents treated to first live show in months

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Residents of a Sackville nursing home were treated to their first live music performance in months on Wednesday, when the woodwind quintet, Ventus Machina, set up in the courtyard to play a midday concert.

The Drew Nursing Home usually has musicians performing regularly, but COVID-19 restrictions brought those performances to an end months ago.

Residents Barb and her husband JJ Leadbetter were thrilled to have live music after having so little to do for so long.

“We really needed some live music, we really did,” said Barb with a laugh. “We were getting so tired of looking at ourselves.”

The couple has lived together at the nursing home for about two and a half years. They said when music was still being performed for residents, they never missed a show and were sad on Wednesday to see the quintet finish and pack up their instruments.

“We’ve got nothing better to do — they could play all afternoon,” said Barb. “We’d give up our dinner.”

Members of the group seemed as excited to play to a live audience as the residents were for live entertainment.

Bassoonist Patrick Bolduc said, “to have those faces there and to feel that we’ve made a difference, that’s amazing.”

While the five member group couldn’t practice in person for two months, they’ve been playing via video chats, which Bolduc said didn’t work.

“Rehearsing and doing a video are still not the same thing as playing for an audience,” he said.

Karin Aurell, the group’s flutist, said she has a family member in isolation at the local hospital and has become all too familiar with “window visits.”

“It’s made me think a lot about just what life is like for people in nursing homes who are stuck inside for a long time and a lot of their regular activities with volunteers and outside groups are just not happening,” she said. “Physical contact that they’re used to with family and relatives is not there.”

“We’re just trying to do a little bit toward making their day a little brighter.”

Ventus Machina played at a nursing home in Port Elgin and at the Sackville Memorial Hospital on Wednesday as well, and the quintet plans to perform in Riverview, Dieppe, Moncton and Saint John in the coming weeks.

Aurell said the group received a small grant from the province to perform, which has helped to make up lost income from cancelled performances.

“We lost a lot of the work that we were planning on doing this summer,” she said.

Cabin Fever is real

Natasha Mills, an activity coordinator at the Drew Nursing Home, said “cabin fever is a real thing.”

“Our lack of music and this beautiful weather is getting us itching to come outside so to have this live entertainment today was absolutely wonderful.”

Mills said the nursing home has been broken up into sections she calls neighbourhoods, with residents in each section making up their own bubble.

About 60 people, most watching from inside the facility, were able to enjoy the performance. Mills said it went well, with the performers and residents able to maintain physical distancing.

She hopes more volunteers will come forward to entertain the people who live there.

“We’re definitely open to having more performers,” said Mills.

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