Does breaking into song with friends or playing an unusual instrument sound like music to your ears? If so, there’s a new Wednesday music group you might like to try.
“There’s no pressure to perform, but people often rediscover a side to their identity which they couldn’t express before,” says Music Therapist Petra Stoffel who runs the Wednesday morning Music & Tea group at Nordoff Robbins, close to Hampstead Heath. The centre helps people enjoy “meaningful musical contact with other people” and claims it can transform lives.
“You don’t need to know how to play or read music,” says Petra who hears music in everything – even a distant lawn mower might be hitting a C sharp. “Music doesn’t have to be classical or have a certain aesthetic framework, it is something we can all access.” This idea might even help you listen to the sounds of a passing plane, a leaf blower or traffic in a fresh – musical – way.
Petra, who was born in Germany, is a lovely, caring woman and expert on the piano, which she began to play aged five. At the Age UK Get Togethers she uses her piano skills to encourage people to improvise on instruments to create harmonies. “Someone might play a rhythmical motif and another person may then copy that on a different instrument. It’s like call and response. We play for half an hour and then can have a break or a cup of tea, but often the group chooses to keep playing,” she says cheerfully.
You can bring your own instrument, and already there’s been a cello and a recorder. Or you can try more unfamiliar instruments such as drums, the metallophone, tambourine, marimba, swanee (or slide) whistle, ukulele or wind chimes.
“The marimba is very popular,” says Petra explaining that it can be played with one, two or three sticks per hand. “No one’s dared try six yet,” she adds, “but the music gets people talking about concerts they’ve been to and their musical experiences – including the marimbo player they’ve seen on YouTube.” It sounds fun: no wonder that participants look forward to next week’s session.