The Rolling Songsters bring music and life to Edmonton General

Rogers Place may host some of the hottest musical acts in the world, but the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre has some superstars of its own: the Rolling Songsters.

This group brings the love of music back to residents and staff alike while also providing residents with multiple sclerosis and dementia an outlet for socialization, communication and fun.

The Rolling Songsters use singing and various instruments like hand bells and accordions to bring musical scores to life.

“According to research, musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with dementia. These two remain long after others have passed,” says Pollyanna Kwong, Recreational Therapist with the Edmonton General. “I read that music is an excellent way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person and after seeing how this group impacts our patients I couldn’t agree more.”

With this in mind, Pollyanna saw an opportunity after learning one volunteer had a musical background and wished to lead such a group. Thus, the Rolling Songsters were born! 

“We’re not doing this perfectly, of course, but the idea is to have fun,” says Shawn McCreight, a resident and Rolling Songsters member. “We get together and we enjoy music. We surprise some people with what we can do.”

Shawn suffered a debilitating stroke at the age of 39 and has been at the Edmonton General for the last four and a half years.

“At times it makes me forget I’m in a chair, that I’m at my age and that the stroke occurred,” says Shawn. “I’m back singing the way I used to when I worked. It’s an escape for me from the condition that I’m in.”

One resident, a former piano teacher and musician now living with advanced dementia, went from being completely silent on the unit to participating in the music rehearsals and singing with the group.

The Rolling Songsters have kept the music rolling for about two years and have made it their goal to have their first public concert in Christmas 2017. And if you’re wondering where the name came from, look no further than Shawn himself. “We’re in chairs, we’re rolling! And songsters is a medieval word for singers. Therefore, we’re the Rolling Songsters,” he says.

The rolling songsters group

Joseph Rose, another band member and resident, also finds solace in the group. “We think positive, we stay happy, and we keep each other happy and take one day at a time. We’re like a big family.”

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