Accesible Concerts: Hohepa Family Weekend


Maryanne Sowman, writes and open letter to share her experience at our latest Accessible Concerts in Canterbury that featured the Marimba and Percussion Duo and Julian Raphael. Maryanne and her sister, Margaret Murphy, attended the Hohehap Families’ Weekend in October.


What a wonderful opportunity we as family have each year to attend the Hohepa Families Celebrations.

As a relative new comer to Canterbury, I have only experienced the past two years’ celebrations, so have little experience to draw on.

2015 was a very special and important occasion for Hohepa as it was their 50th Jubilee year and celebrations were themed to fit the occasion -remembering the past and looking to the future.

It was a very fitting and moving occasion to be a part of.

This year I approached the Families’ Weekend with an air of expectation, aware of the possibility of something special about to unfold.

In the week leading in to the celebrations, my sister who attends Hohepa Day Services, had become unusually animated, and more specifically had begun humming and singing and beating out a rhythm with her hands. She was excited and talkative, focussing almost entirely on the music sessions that she had been involved in during the week at Hohepa.

This behaviour was quite a departure from our norm at home over many, many years.

Music had been a big part of our lives as we grew up on the farm together in Marlborough. There were no musicians in the family, but music, singing and dancing and church music was always a feature of our family culture and entertainment.

Back then, my sister could sing very well, and had the natural ability to pick up a tune and carry it with very little previous exposure.

In recent years, ill health and medication have impacted her voice, her ability to sing, and her memory of songs and tunes that were once very familiar. She seemed to have lost interest in something that had previously been a source of considerable pleasure to her.

Our attendance this year at the Dinner and Dance was a good hit out, and it was thrilling to see so many in attendance, all beautifully turned out for the occasion and participating in whatever way suited the individual.

The music was great, particularly with so many Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks numbers for those of us from that particular era.

But the best was yet to come.

Attending the concert on Sunday afternoon saw my anticipation and expectations well rewarded.

What an exhilarating and uplifting performance from all involved.

My sister, who rarely leaves my side, took her place alongside all of the other performers and after some initial discomfort gave herself over totally to the music and the singing.

I felt emotionally overwhelmed observing her from a distance, totally immersed and involved in the experience, loving and enjoying every minute.

The songs were basic, but powerful and familiar, and there for everyone to enjoy, appreciate and be involved.

The musicians themselves were involved and supportive of each other, whilst encouraging everyone to participate at whatever level we wanted.  I witnessed a thrilling performance, but it never felt as if it was about the performance .It was more about giving pleasure and communicating with all in attendance.

There was no separation, just music being used as a tool to communicate across all barriers.

I left rejuvenated and exhilarated and exhausted, such was the pleasure of witnessing such a special example of integration and mass involvement of professionals and amateurs.

When it ended I wanted to scream for more but it didn’t seem polite.

My sister continues to burst in to song periodically and I’m certain that the concert experience has evoked memories from her distant past.  Just last week she was singing, “Scarlet Ribbons”, such an oldie I had to go to You Tube for the lyrics!

I feel committed now to bringing the music back in to her life, and I sincerely thank all who were involved in bringing the concert to us, especially those who organised, performed, financially supported, provided the venue, all who gave time and talent.

The joy and happiness given and received at this function was patently evident around the venue throughout the proceedings

Thank you for this “all inclusive” performance which was beyond my wildest dreams, an experience of a lifetime, something that I will never forget.

With respect. It seems that music therapy is totally underutilised and presumably underfunded, but with benefits so tangibly obvious where communication difficulties exist it, should be more readily available across all disability sectors.

I sincerely hope that there will be other similar opportunities in the near future.

Again, thank you.


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