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Culture

When Music Becomes A Cure

Bringing music to people who don't get the chance to go to live performances is the motto of the organisation, "Live Music Now!", founded by the late world famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin.

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Not everyone is able to enjoy the magic of a concert

For those who live in the Frida Kahlo Home, the night of the performance was a special one.

The institution, named after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, is home to young disabled people in need of special care. For them, simply going to a concert or the movies often proves an unsurmountable hurdle. But on this particular night, young pianist Tatiana Liakh and flutist Jung-Hyun have decided to play for the inhabitants of the Frida Kahlo Home - at the home itself.

Bringing music to the people

The two young musicians are members of the orgaisation "Live Music Now!" (LMN!). Live Music Now was founded in England back in 1977 by the late Lord Yehudi Menhuin. The world-renowned violinist strongly believed in the curative effects of music.

During World War II, Menhuin played in field hospitals for the wounded and, after the war, for survivors of German concentration camps. When South-Africa's apartheid regime barred blacks from entering the country's concert halls, Menuhin gave special concerts for blacks.

Bringing music to people that would otherwise not have the chance to go to live performances thus became the motto of his organisation.

Today, musicians at "Live Music Now!" play for the homeless, in orphanages, prisons, refugee centers, or, as the British branch of the organisation puts it, "for other people whose freedom and comforts are denied, for whatever reason."

A chance to perform

For young musicians like Andreas Kirpal, "Life Music Now!" offers the possibility to play in front of audiences, rather than rehearsing primarily on their own. Together with his brother Stefan, Andreas has played in various, albeit unusual venues in the past three years - including hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

Apart from the experience, it is also a way of earning a modest income with their music. For each performance Andreas and Stefan earn a little money, which comes from the "Live Music Now!" scholarship fund. But despite the opportunity of earning some extra cash, most of the young musicians do not take part in the project for the money alone.

"My experiences were quite positive. You do learn a lot," Andreas told DW-WORLD, "for instance, you do realize that out there, the things you learn at university, don't really matter all that much."

Connecting to people

"It's much more important that you take your audience seriously. Take for instance the people in a geriatric ward where we once played. They won't notice whether you play your pieces the way your professor wants you to," says Andreas, "but they will certainly react to you, when you somehow manage to connect to them."

Connecting to a wide range of audiences, however, isn't always an easy task for young musicians, Martina Bauer says.

Bauer is an assistant professor for piano at Munich's academy of drama and music and is a member of the LMN! commission that selects new scholarship-holders each year. "Apart from the musical side, we also need people who have excellent communication skills. We want them to go out and make an effort to explain their music to the audience. And that's very different from what musicians usually do."

Music is not a cure-all

Different the experience may be, it is often a very rewarding one, Sabine Freifrau Kraisel says. Kraisel is one of the founding members of LMN!'s German branch in Munich and has been to many of its concerts. "Music is certainly not a cure-all, unfortunately," says Kraisel, "but I have seen truly amazing things happen."

"Once, we had a musician play for a little girl who was terminally ill. The nurses had already given up on her, saying that she was not showing any kind of response anymore. But then the musician started playing his instrument, the bassoon, explaining the different kinds of sound it makes, and a smile ran over her face," Kraisel recalls.

Another time, two LMN! musicians played in front of a home for troubled teenage girls. Before the concert the social workers had warned the musicians that it would be really difficult to get the girls to quieten down, and that they would most probably not listen to classical music anyway.

But then, within minutes after appearing on the improvised stage, the two musicians, all dressed up in their black tailcoats and red bow ties, captured the total attention of everyone in the audience. "The musician who gave the introduction is a really handsome guy," says Kraisel, "and he managed to charm them all."

The young musicians from Live Music Now! also regularly play for elderly people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Although the patients cannot recall what they had for breakfast, the nurses say, some of them seem to remember the concerts for a long time.

But even when they forget, the musicians know that they have made them happy, if only for a day.

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  • Date 12.07.2002
  • Author Kerstin Steinbrecher
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/2TGk
  • Date 12.07.2002
  • Author Kerstin Steinbrecher
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/2TGk