Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure on BBC One – how music can help people with dementia

Vicky McClure’s gran was diagnosed with vascular dementia at the age of 75, and lived with the disease until her death in 2015. Inspired by her memory, Line of Duty star Vicky is presenting a moving two-part documentary: Vicky McClure: Our Dementia Choir, starting on Thursday 2 May at 8pm on BBC One.

Together with specialists from the fields of medicine, music therapy, and performance, Vicky formed a special choir formed of 20 singers who are living with dementia. 

In the second episode of the programme, airing on 9 May, we see them come together to give one amazing performance to 2,000 people in Nottingham.

Read more about the choir here, from our Singing for the Brain group leader Angela O'Neill.

The power of music for people with dementia 

Many people have a special connection to music, and this can be particularly powerful for people with dementia. Evidence suggests music can improve someone's mood, behaviour and wellbeing.

Vicky McClure and the Dementia Choir - on BBC One Thursday 2 May 2019 at 8pm.

Listening to favourite songs can bring back old memories and feelings. Many people with dementia are still able to enjoy music and to sing even when they start to lose their language abilities. 

While the search for a cure continues, we all must work together to support people affected by dementia today so they can live meaningful lives. Music is a wonderful way to do this.

People with dementia can have a special connection to music (Image credit - BBC One)

Research shows that musical memory is often retained when other memories are lost; music can help people to recall memories due to the nature of preserved memory for song and music in the brain.

'Being part of this experience and as an Alzheimer’s Society ambassador, I have seen how singing can help people with dementia communicate, improve their mood and leave them feeling good about themselves.'
- Vicky McClure 

There are lots of ways for people with dementia to enjoy the power of music. For instance, there are programmes bringing live music to hospitals. You can also buy special radios and music players designed for people who have dementia. There’s also a charity called Playlist for Life, which encourages people with dementia and their friends and family to make a playlist of music which is special to them. 

Alzheimer’s Society is a founder organisation of Music for Dementia 2020 and an adviser for BBC Music Day, both of which aim to bring music to everyone affected by dementia. 

Vicky and choir members singing their hearts out (image credit BBC One)

Singing for the Brain groups

At Alzheimer’s Society we run Singing for the Brain groups up and down the country. They are a great way for people with dementia and their carers to enjoy music and socialise with other people. Singing for the Brain groups celebrate the joy of singing together, like the Dementia Choir in Vicky’s programme.

If you’d like to find a Singing for the Brain group near you, use our dementia directory to see your local groups, as well as other activities and services near you.

Donate today and support people living with dementia

With your support, we can run services such as Singing for the Brain, to help improve the lives of people living with dementia.

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32 comments

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Brilliant and heart breaking on 💔

Amazing to show people there is life whilst having dementia,the joy you saw on their faces brought me to tears, my Mum had vascular dementia it was a very difficult time for her loved ones as she was profoundly Deaf and a sign language user so no stimulation through sound , but she was a clown through the 7 years and loved making us laugh ,strangely enough pretending to be an opera singer obviously no words just lovely sounds at the top of her voice and indeed the actions .xx

Truly amazing and moving programme which shows the power of music for those with dementia as well as showing that everyone living with dementia is an individual and a person first.

I thought the tv program was wonderful. My busband has dementia and struggles some days but when he has his music on it makes such a difference. Will there be other choirs like this in other parts of the country. It would be great if there was one in Birmingham.

I thought the program was brilliant , gardening ,singing looking at photos anything people have enjoyed in their past does help , I look forward to seeing the next program next week.

Wonderful programme. So emotional and thought provoking. My late mom passed away last year with Alzheimers, and I really feel for those who are going through this cruel disease - both sufferers and carers. Thankyou to Vicky McClure for such an uplifting yet heartbreaking programme.

Would love to be a part of this Chorus. I know singing makes a wonderful difference to all those suffering from Dementia. I spend as much time as possible with my 1st Husband often singing to him, to see the smile on his face says it all!!!

Brilliant programme
Congratulations to Vicky for her superb production.

Brilliant program. You can feel like the only family dealing with dementure. My dad's always loved music and still does.

Such a amazing emotional watch Vicky McClure , such needed research of this horrific disease, only too know how hard it is to watch but your dedication makes is easier to understand , thank you 🙏🏻

What a excellent program. My mother’s in law was diagnosed with Dementia last October.
My father in law is boing a excellent job taken care of her which worries me about them. Wish there was a group on Newcastle area. Because he might be interested in taken part of the experiment, he’s just not interested in trying other groups. I cried from start to finish.

St Andrews Bolton Pipes and Drums is a small mini band of Pipers and Drummers based in Bolton. In the past four years we have travelled and played in many Care, Nursing and Residential homes. In most cases our performances can be free of charge and despite what you might think, a loud instrument, the Residents have enjoyed our brand of Scottish tunes. For more information please contact us.

Lovely uplifting happy show you are all wonderful winners Thankyou all

Amazing show and how wonderful to see so many people taking part, very inspiring - music is the food of life. The dedicated Carers are wonderful, like angels. The south-east London school I work at have written and performed a song 'Here I Am' which is currently being promoted by our local Alzheimer's Society groups - it would be great if it could reach your Latest News page too. The link to our website and the YouTube video is http://www.hurstmere.org.uk/225/news/post/73/harmony-army-studio-fix-ch….

Thank you Vicky McClure for showing the power of music and singing for those with dementia and their Carers. But also for raising awareness of all types of dementia like FTD - Frontotemporal Dementia - which are different from Alzheimer’s. Thanks too for showing that dementia not only strikes the elderly but that early onset dementias affect young people too with devastating results for their young families. Thanks to all those involved in the making of this wonderful documentary - sad yes - but uplifting and totally inspirational! Raising awareness is the way forward en route to finding a cure for this cruel disease - and who knows the power of music and singing could well be the key to unlocking the dreadful dementia secret!

Thank you Vicky for such an emotive, powerful and truly inspirational programme. One of the best show I have watched for a long time. Your nana would be very proud of you and smiling from above

Brilliant programme but I hope they can carry on singing together now the programme has finished? Would be such a shame not to keep going

Great programme with such benefits for the choir. I hope they will still meet as a choir as it would be a shame to take such a great thing away now?

Fantastic programme was in tears would live to know more

I was speaking to a lady in the queue in the supermarket who said every minute of the day was precious to her as her husband is in respite care for the day as he has dementia. I asked if she'd seen the programme and she said she had. Rather than making her feel sad she felt touched that others understood what they are going through and also glad that she had had 45 years of happy married life with her husband.

My mum as recently passed away from vascular dementia!!..she loved to sing..and she actaully never stopped!!..music always made her smile..this prrogramme was amazing and very touching!!..i literally sobbed whilst watching. X

As a former music teacher, and lover of music in many genres, I know how music can restore and soothe. Such s wonderfully heartwarmung and positive initiative. Heartfelt congratulations to everyone involved xx

Please tell us if the choir continue to meet and sing? Also I'm involved with the DAA and Sleaford Dementia Support and we heard nothing about this until TV advertising began, why?

Vicky was superb fronting this terrific and inspirational show,so natural ,warm and honest without being patronising like some presenters can be.My wife and I learned so much from this show about the problems sufferers face everyday.It was a truly wonderful show.

An excellent and inspiring programme and congratulations to Vicky for making the project so successful. Singing has great power both to release memories and allow those who live with dementia to live 'in the moment'. There are actually many singing groups across Britain which are devoted to those who live with dementia, including the Alzheimer's Society's own 'Singing for the Brain' groups. It would have been helpful if the BBC could have pointed this out so that people inspired by Vicky's choir could look out for one in their neighbourhood.

Such a great insightful programme. My mother in law passed away from vascular dementia in January this year. My mum has Alzheimer’s, diagnosed just after her 60th birthday and last month my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s too. Can I please ask that one of these songs from the programme is released by a record label and sold, with the funds raised going to research into finding a cure for this awful disease?

I thought the programme really wonderful. I cared for both of my parents who had Alzheimer’s. I discovered really early on that music broke through many barriers. We amassed a whole collection of cds in many genre. As both had poor memory towards the end music acted as an anchor to the past.
The television show illustrated how important music is, how it gives hope and purpose as well as pleasure. I hope the research will continue. It would have been very helpful advice when my parents were first diagnosed along with the doom and gloom and conversations about end of life plans.

Brilliant show so very uplifting and makes you think. Keep the research going and I imagine in the future it will be cured not in my life time but soon. My husband has dementia but he loves to sing , music for the soul. He’s there somewhere when he sings and i see my husband back.

An amazing,thought provoking programme. Having nursed and supported both my parents with Dementia, and recently seen my father in law die of Vascular Dementia in the challenging behaviours unit of a care home, I found this choir inspirational. Well done to Vicky and her team, also well done Nottingham for hosting and supporting the project.

Lovely programme. Please as stated above make a record of this and give the proceeds to cure this wicked, wicked disease

A fantastic programme. Inspiring and building on something I have long thought would be helpful to dementia sufferers.
As a music teacher how I can I get involved?

Hi Caroline,

Thanks for getting in touch and glad you enjoyed the programme - wasn't it brilliant?

The best place to start might be to see if there's a Singing for the Brain group near you. You can find your nearest group from this page and then contact them to see if there are any opportunities to get involved: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/your-support-services/singing…

Best wishes,
--
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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