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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36 comments

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I thought this programme was strong and was delivered so wonderfully by Vicky. I know this was about dementia but my dad passed away earlier this year of cancer, it was over a very short period and aggressive. Music was such a passion of his and his impact on my life was huge. The Beatles song "in my life" was so poignant and appropriate, it really allowed me to express and release that emotion of loss which I'd held for a while. Music breaks so many barriers. Hope the wonderful research continues.

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What an amazing programme. Anything that can help people understand the effects of this cruel disease, is so worthwhile. To see the joy music can bring to people with dementia is heartwarming. My mum is in a nursing home and was diagnosed 12 years ago. She is now in the later stages but there is still a twinkle in her eyes when they have music entertainment. Thank you for what you have done Vicky Mclure, your nana would be very proud of you

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9

I loved watching the dementia choir.do they still see each other.
What a brilliant programme so emotional.
I hope there is more to come, and bwell done Vicky.
My aunty passed away with vascular dementia.

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10

I have Alzheimer’s and live in County Antrim. I would love to see something similar here. I just love singing and have been a member of many choirs. Is there a group anywhere in the vicinity of Bt38.

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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12

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?

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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.

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7

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.

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13

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?

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8

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

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11

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

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