In Toronto's Cummer Lodge, seniors sway to an aria written by Schubert. Some weep; all are listening. But this is no record or tape or television. Before the group of very elderly people, some in wheelchairs and most in early stages of dementia, stands Teiya Kasahara, a professional opera star who sings not only the classical repertoire, but also Eidelweiss from the Sound of Music. Today's Globe and Mail reported this remarkable story and I hope that people around the world will get wind of this transformative programme.
But what exactly is transformed by offering a live opera concert to nursing home residents? I reckon it is the witnessing of exquisite beauty collectively that bestows dignity on every listener- staff and residents alike. The music raises listeners above and beyond their bodily needs to a shared humanity of great worth. Music can have sacred powers, almost like a communion host. Those who partake in the genius and goodness of Schubert are made better, wiser, prettier, smarter and happier just by listening. And David Lemon, the philanthropist behind the Health Arts Society of Ontario, understands this.
It is no coincidence that my blog is titled "Connecting with families, policy, ethics and culture". Because the languages of artistic forms transcend, transform and above all unify. In a previous post, I reflected on Adam Kahane's latest book, Love and Power. In it, the author describes love as the drive toward unity. If that idea requires evidence to prove its absolute truth, Kahane and others need look no further than the Cummer Lodge.