20 years of healing through music.
by Marlena Lambert
Last year, more than a million YouTube viewers met “Henry,” an Alzheimer’s patient transformed by the healing power of music. This year, thousands of residents in nursing homes and other facilities on the Wasatch Front will receive the same gift of music thanks to Heart & Soul, a consortium of local musicians celebrating 20 years of bringing live performances to people confined to hospitals, prisons, shelters, convalescent homes and other care facilities. Heart & Soul has grown from seven shows (about 200 patients) in 1994 to nearly 800 shows this year, reaching 20,000 individuals with a diverse array of music including jazz, folk, blues, Americana, Celtic and more.
Longtime Heart & Soul performer Chris Lucas sometimes wonders who benefits more from the experience, the audience or the musicians. “I was playing a Christmas show at a nursing home,” Lucas recalls, “and this woman in the back was laughing and singing along. After our performance a nursed told us it was the first time in that patient’s six-month stay that she’d uttered a word.”
“Singing with people of different ages who all know the words to John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’ is really fun!” says singer-songwriter Anke Summerhill. “It’s clear that singing together moves people’s hearts and brings back memories. Sometimes people in wheelchairs will dance along to the songs. The music moves them.”
Janna Lauer, cofounder of Heart & Soul, was initially inspired by Bread and Roses, a Bay-area nonprofit that brings live music to people with limited means. “I guess I was naïve when we began, but I thought it was totally within the realm of the possible. It took time to really get on our feet. We just kept doing the next thing until we got here,” she says of the 20-year journey.
Heart & Soul performers also like showcasing their talents more widely. A few years ago, Lauer heard about “Porchfest,” a community music event in Ithaca, New York where local bands perform on porches throughout a neighborhood as attendees stroll from house to house, on foot or bike, listening to a variety of musical styles.
“I thought, ‘What a perfect event for Heart & Soul’s 250-plus performers.’ So we started the Heart & Soul Porchfest, which now is called the Heart & Soul Music Stroll.”
This month, 30 bands will perform on porches, lawns and in driveways in a Sugar House neighborhood, along with food, a street dance and a raffle. Everyone’s invited. See below for details.
Sat., June 14:
Third annual Heart & Soul Music Stroll. Thirty bands perform on porches, lawns and in driveways. Music, food, dancing. 4pm-dusk. (Street dance at 7pm with the 20-member Stratford Street Big Band.) Sugar House neighborhood (south of the Sugar House commercial district): Begin at Filmore and Atkin Streets (1530 East at 2800 South). Raffle and silent auction. (You want that ukelele, right?) Heartsoul.org
Marlena Lambert is both a board member and performer for Heart and Soul as half of the duet Minnie and Mack.