Caring for patients through music

Music is a welcome sound at St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose. Sounds fill the halls every Tuesday with the help of student volunteers from the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute (CLBI). Now these volunteers are collaborating with patients once a month to sing hymns in the hospital chapel as part of a music therapy program.

Anna Radchenko, volunteer and foundation co-ordinator at St. Mary’s, started Music Care in October after attending a certificate course on this topic in the fall of 2016. Following the course, the hospital partnered with CLBI so students would sing in the halls weekly. After a summer off, students returned for a second year and have added the activity in the chapel to their visiting rotation.

St. Mary’s has patients who are waiting for placement in a long-term care facility, and Anna wanted to involve them in an activity.

“Music therapy is something larger hospitals are sometimes able to fund. Without funding, it is challenging to bring in the level of talent and quality that CLBI is able to provide. Reina, Joel and David, the CLBI students who are volunteering for this program, are all very gifted, wonderful individuals. We have had a great need for patient activities so we strive to provide opportunities when possible,” Anna says.

Morley Riske joins CLBI students Reina Talen, Joel Bergum and David Void in a hymn sing.

She adds she also wanted to do something with her work that was more meaningful while helping patients at the same time. 

“The purpose of Music Care is to engage patients who have been in our hospital for long periods of time. We aim to help them feel spiritually whole and healthy, so when they leave, they feel more uplifted than when they are admitted,” says Anna.

Morley Riske is one of these patients. The 81-year-old has been living at St. Mary’s for four months and is passionate about music. When his wife, Duane Riske, visits him, they head to the chapel so he can play his saxophone while she accompanies him on piano. Despite his blindness, Morley can perform songs and music from memory.

“Music became very important after retirement. We played in several different bands. Music has brought us much joy and many new friends, and it was something we could do together,” says Duane.

Morley Riske with his wife Duane.

At one point in his life, Morley owned 25 saxophones. He also plays clarinet and sings from a wide repertoire.

He joins the three CLBI students because they provide an opportunity to play with a group of musicians.

“They play the kind of music I enjoy,” says Morley.

“It’s a work in progress. It’s a volunteer effort for them. Morley enjoys singing with them because they do gospel music and they are all songs that we know,” adds Duane.

Any patient can join the Music Care program and try out a drum and tambourine that were purchased from a donation from the St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation.

Anna says Morley started asking about the program weeks before it started.

Although her volunteer work at St. Mary’s is part of the requirement of school, Reina Talen says she enjoys connecting with patients like Morley through music.

“It’s such a blessing to have someone here so interested and so involved in the music we are doing and able to contribute himself. It’s fun to add that dynamic of him playing the saxophone and singing harmonies along with us.”

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