A poignant tribute to patients

thisisoxfordshire: Sobell House hospice music therapist Bob Heath Sobell House hospice music therapist Bob Heath

WHEN some people are at death’s door, or coping with the loss of a loved one, they often find a way to express their feelings through song.

The man helping them turn their thoughts into a tune is music therapist Bob Heath, who works at Sobell House Hospice in Headington.

On Wednesday he was performing work composed by hospice patients and their families.

Mr Heath said: “Music has been at Sobell House for 25 years and it has a long history of being a way that people can express themselves.

“At the end of their lives people often feel desperate and music therapy is an opportunity to address those issues in a different way.

“People use music therapy to distract themselves and also to express themselves in a different way.

“It is probably the scariest time for some people but lots of them write music for their own funerals.

“I have been doing music therapy at Sobell House for about 10 years and I have worked with hundreds of people over that time.”

Mr Heath, 58, is also a lecturer in music therapy at the University of the West of England.

Many of the people he has helped over the past decade have not lived long enough to see their musical work performed.

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The concert, held at the John Radcliffe Hospital, was attended by the family and friends of those who composed the music.

Veronica Kirby, from Wantage, began music therapy 15 months ago, after her husband John died.

She said: “Before I had the opportunity to go I was completely unmusical and I had never played an instrument.

“But it was extremely helpful in dealing with what is a very sad time.

“Hearing the music I composed this week gave me the chance to think back to that time and it made me realise just how far I had come.”

It was the latest in a line of concerts which have been held since April, when music composed by patients was performed for what was believe to be the first time in the world.

Sobell House Hospice, based at Churchill Hospital, was opened in 1976 to provide care for those with life-limiting illnesses.

It refers people to music or art therapy for a wide range of issues including depression, insomnia, and coping with loss and bereavement.

The hospice is named after the philanthropist Sir Michael Sobell and has to raise nearly £4m a year to keep running.

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