We are convinced of the power of music to get to places otherwise inaccessible for people with dementia. During the lockdowns we were uplifted by sessions on zoom which brought life and smiles to us through songs and stories we could join in with – tunes from our shared pasts, lodged safe and close to our emotional centres. Smiles and tears come close together.
I have been taken up with the story of the favourite hymn: ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’. It came to me recently via a version sung by Aretha Franklin www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9rrtgwRsfk
The hymn was first a poem written by Joseph Medlicott Scrivens. He wrote it as a comfort to himself and his mother at the time that they were separated – she having stayed in Ireland, he having taken off for Canada soon after the death of his first intended wife a few days before their planned marriage. The poem was written a little while after the death of his second intended wife who also and tragically died by drowning shortly before they were due to be married.
Music was added some time later by Charles Crozart Converse. This is a short hymn, with a repeated refrain: ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer’. It has been translated into many languages and is widely received as a favourite to be sung by children and grown-ups as company to everyday work as much as for formal worship.