CWTCH was a commissioned piece that Pauline composed last year. It was commissioned by the Gwanwyn Festival (celebrating older age in Wales) for their 10th Birthday celebrations.
Pauline composed a piece of vocal harmony music using words collected from residents in care homes who had taken part in participatory arts workshops. It was performed in Cardiff last July for an invited audience from a local care home, a local day centre and other interested people.
The audience, about 38 people, were either seated on chairs scattered in pods of two or three in the centre of the space (with an empty chair ready for a singer to occupy in each pod) or in a circle placed around these pods and facing the centre.
There were 10 singers including the MD.
During the opening bars of CWTCH, the singers walked slowly in towards an empty chair where they sat themselves next to one or two members of the audience and remained for the rest of the piece. In this way, each person in the middle was sung to 'one to one' as well as having a sound surround of all the harmonies.
When the singing was over, we invited people to stay for tea and cake and a chance to socialise and chat about the experience.
Here are some of the things that they said:
“this would work really well in care homes”
“What a beautiful piece of work, thank you so much”
“This is medicine! Experiences like this would put the NHS out of business; everybody should receive this!”
Here are some reflections from a member of the audience, Gilly Adams; free lance director, workshop leader, dramaturg:
Cwtch is the Welsh word for a cuddle or hug but it somehow also conveys a sense of affection and sanctuary. Thus it was an apt title for Pauline Down’s beautiful piece for voices, conceived as a gift for older people and with lyrics based on conversations in the care homes where she has worked. These simple, repeated phrases could have been banal, but instead resonated with truth. The audience was divided between an outer circle and an inner scatter of chairs which allowed the singers to make an intimate connection with the person sitting next to them and also to move at will in the space. From the opening moments when the singers wandered amongst us welcoming each individual musically by name, the voices surrounded us, comforted us, cheered us, moved us. There was a poignant silence and many quiet tears as the music died away. We knew that we had been blessed with something special.As someone said, this was such a healing experience that it should be widely available on the NHS. Would that there were the funds to do so.
I am hoping to get funding to develop CWTCH and take it further afield.