Last Saturday, the Meddiebempsters, Bowdoin’s oldest all-male a cappella group, performed at the 2nd Annual Smith College concert to benefit the Neil McManus Fund and the Beverley Pickering Alzheimer’s and Music Program.
The concert was a benefit for dementia caregivers. While the concert provided audience members with music and laughs, the songs performed were recorded and will be used for another purpose: a music therapy study conducted by Johns Hopkins and Harvard University.
The Meddies shared the stage with Smith College’s Smiffenpoofs, Mount Holyoke’s Victory Eights and Connecticut College’s CoCoBeaux. Recordings of the concert will be sold and proceeds will go towards the Neil McManus Memorial Fund created by Heather S. Craig, a former dementia caregiver, in memory of her late husband.
“There was a guy there—he had apparently won 17 Grammys—who was mixing and recording the whole thing as we were performing,” said Meddies senior Michael Yang. “He’s going to master everything and they’re going to put all the songs into a CD.”
The performance was not only a fundraiser, but also the basis for a scientific study on dementia.
“The order of the songs sung by the four groups is supposed to pseudo-scientifically support the music therapy idea for people with dementia,” said Yang.
The CD will be given to dementia patient’s caregivers along with a survey, which will ask questions like, “How did you feel listening to this music?” and “How did you use this music with the dementia patient?”
The caregivers will answer the questions and send the forms back to Harvard and Johns Hopkins, so they can study the effects of music on dementia patients. Past studies have shown that there is some link between music and the ability to calm or rouse dementia patients by triggering memories.
According the Yang, the concert idea was created after Craig went to a concert with her ailing husband.
“She had this memory of going to some music performance [with him] and they were sitting together,” he said. “Her husband, who at that point couldn’t even really speak, at some point was hitting her and saying ‘that...that...that.’ [The message in the song] was what he wanted to tell her. That’s why music therapy is really important and really great.”
The Meddies sang 11 songs ranging from 1930s to present day hits, including “Lydia,” “The Tattooed Lady,” “Mirrors, Give Me Love,” and “Mood Indigo” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
The community service aspect meant a lot to the group.
“[The study] gave the music more meaning,” said Filipi Camarotti ’14.
Craig approached Yang shortly after the Meddies performed and told him a couple of the caregivers were crying while the group sang.
“They said they didn’t feel like someone had cared for them this much in a long time,” said Yang.
“They were laughing too because our songs are sprinkled with a lot of jokes. When I started speaking in Korean, people went crazy.
“We sang for people with dementia and they laughed and had a lot of fun,” said Yang. “I’m glad we got that recording opportunity as well as a chance to sing. If [people] cried...I mean I can’t really ask for much more. It was really rewarding.”