Surgery where the ‘doctor’ prescribes only songs

Opera singer Bibi HealOpera singer Bibi Heal
Opera singer Bibi Heal
A passage by Brahms might not be what the doctor would usually have ordered, but it might be music to the ears of visitors to an experimental surgery today.

The prescribing of soothing melodies to ease ailments of the mind, or even the physical variety, is said to be gaining traction among alternative practitioners, and a project in the Yorkshire Dales is among the first to put it to the test.

The Arts Council-funded Great Place Lakes and Dales initiative, which aims to encourage younger people to live and work in the two National Parks, is behind the drop-in Song Surgery, the first of which is at Ambleside Parish Centre this afternoon, with a concert in Settle to follow.

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Producer Jane Rice-Bowen and Bibi Heal, her opera singer neighbour in Skipton, will conduct the experiment with performing arts students from Bradford College.

“We’re prescribing songs to make people feel better,” said Ms Heal, who will sing capsule classics to the patients.

“There will be the opportunity to go away with a prescription in your hand for the piece of music that has resonated with you, which you can then look up on YouTube or Spotify and have as a new piece you’ve discovered through this process.”

Ms Rice-Bowen added: “You don’t have to be based in London to create exciting work. This will be an intimate experience that people will not have had before, certainly not in Ambleside.”

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Ms Heal suggested that to cure insomnia, a century-old song by the composer Ivor Gurney might do the trick. “Come sleep,” he wrote, “and let some pleasing dream beguile all my fancies.” Clinicians, she added, were increasingly advising patients to sing themselves to health, “in the same way as taking a walk in the countryside”.