“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King
This quote speaks to me. “Community” is a key word when I reflect on the creation of the beautiful Mercy Garden for Harmony and Peace located in the courtyard of St. Patrick’s Mercy Home, one of Eastern Health’s faith-based long-term care facilities.
The concept for installing outdoor musical instruments began in February 2018 when our Auxiliary submitted an application to the Rotary Club of St. John’s to consider the Harmony Garden for funding. Rotarians are individuals from all backgrounds, who truly represent their motto “service above self” and work tirelessly to fund special projects all over the world. Just a few short months after submitting the application, our project was approved and I was invited, as the certified musical therapist at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home, to consult on instrument choice and the use of music for community engagement.
The project was the vision of the Director of Volunteer Services, Joyce Penney who said that “the joy and pleasure our residents and family members experience in the Mercy Garden for Harmony and Peace is heartwarming to witness.” She added, “It is without a doubt that music is a universal language. When residents are engaged in playing these beautiful instruments, either by themselves, or with other residents or family members, the flow of music, conversation and expression is unmistakably a beautiful experience for all.”
In the summer of 2019, the four instruments we ordered from Freenotes were installed and have become a focal point for residents, families, and friends when visiting the garden. These outdoor musical instruments have played a role in connecting residents, families, volunteers, and staff. On September 10, 2019, I was extremely proud to participate and help residents do a demonstration of the instruments for all the dignitaries, residents, family, friends and Rotarians who attended the dedication ceremony to officially open the Mercy Garden.
The joy and pleasure for residents is evident in the video below. I, along with residents Frances Hynes, Brother Edward Wakeham, Frank Parsons, Mary Morris and Georgina King, were very excited to showcase the value of these instruments to the Mercy Garden.
The Benefits of Music
Access to these instruments has promoted conversations, engaged residents in playful interactions with one another, and opened avenues of interaction for families. The Freenotes’ website states, “Playing music with others fosters deep listening, respect, a sense of belonging and builds community.” As a certified music therapist, I see this every day when I work with residents. Music creates joy and social engagement, something that’s very important for residents, their families and friends especially during the transition into long-term care.
There are many emotions that can accompany that transition such as loss, sadness, confusion, or uncertainty. Frequently, families are also navigating the journey of dementia with their loved one. Engaging in music can bring about meaningful moments filled with comfort, smiling faces, and interactive connections between families and their loved ones. The outdoor musical instruments have not only spurred socialization for the residents, but also for the families. It promotes conversation and purposeful interactions to help further that sense of community and support within their home.
“The Mercy Garden of Harmony and Peace symbolizes peace and tranquility into the lives of the residents at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home,” said St. Patrick’s Mercy Home resident Georgina King. “The installation of the newly acquired musical instruments contributes to the beauty of the setting. It allows people a time of meditation and enjoyment while listening to the birds, river, and the sound of music.”
We wanted to enhance the courtyard within our home and the harmony garden has done just that. It is a place of beauty and peace where residents can go to sit, relax, think, reflect, or enjoy the company of others alike.
As soon as the instruments were installed, we noticed an immediate interest. Four instruments were specifically designed for all ages and abilities, accessibility, and a successful musical experience:
The Yantzee is a resonating instrument that creates sustained undertones, while allowing other instruments to create the melodic line.
The Duet is an instrument built for two! One half of the instrument sounds a resonating C major scale while the other half hosts a rhythmic A minor scale.
The Tuned Drums is a must have in any grouping of instruments. Multiple players can avail of the Tuned Drums to create rhythmic patterns with one another.
The Swirl is a visually stimulating structure that offers beautiful resonating tones of a C major scale on one half and an A minor scale on the other. This instrument can accommodate two players.
Linking the Generations
Because the outdoor musical instruments were installed over the summer while children were out of school, we noticed the connection the instruments promoted between generations. Children, great-grandchildren, and even great-great grandchildren interacted and played on the instruments with their families and loved ones. Children can be hesitant or shy when interacting with older adults; however, the instruments became the channel that allowed the generations to immediately form a connection.
This also applied to interpersonal relationship building from resident to resident. Music is a very social activity which guides people into conversations about life, one’s history, memories, and family. It connects people, which, in turn, shows us that we are all in this together.
The Power of Community
“Music is a connector to all people,” said Paddy Greene, president of the Rotary Club of St. John’s. “A melody can describe a feeling in a way that language can’t. It is an important part of the human experience and can be such an enriching part of our everyday lives. When we want to celebrate, it is there leading the excitement. When we are in mourning, it is there to console. When we are stressed or anxious, it is there to calm. Whether you are making music, or just enjoying others make it, it can be a very healing experience. The Rotary Club of St. John’s was honoured by the opportunity to help the residents of St. Patrick’s Mercy Home through our contribution to the Harmony Garden.”
We chose the name Mercy Garden for Harmony and Peace because it captures the beauty of the trees and flowers that surround the courtyard, the rushing of Rennies Mill River, and now, the harmonious sounds of the instruments. Through the phenomenal efforts of our community, St. Patrick’s Mercy Home has enhanced its outdoor space to include four musical instruments that will be a part of our home for years to come. There are other musical gardens at Eastern Health facilities such as the outdoor garden of the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre.
As much as this garden has created a community within our home, it took a community of incredible people to make this vision a reality. Eastern Health’s infrastructure staff at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home provided amazing support as they assembled each instrument with such care and dedication. And we are very thankful for the generous support of the Rotary Club of St. John’s. Their acceptance of our application allowed this project to become a reality. ■
This story was written by Deborah Hawksley, a certified music therapist with Eastern Health who works at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home.