Performing A Sense of Place at TEDx NHS

Performing A Sense of Place at TEDx NHS

Many of us during the restrictions imposed by lockdown have developed a new sense of place – a favourite bench in the nearest park, a meandering country path or a quiet corner of home perhaps.

Two years ago, New Note’s musicians composed a beautiful piece of music called A Sense of Place exploring the relationship between belonging and places in their lives that have been important in their recoveries from substance abuse. A performance of part of the piece has recently been put on YouTube by TEDx Talks, the influential showcase that celebrates locally driven ideas and elevates them to a global stage.

We had been asked to play at a special TEDx NHS event for healthcare workers being held at the IMAX cinema on the South Bank in London. The auditorium holds around 500 people so this was to be one of the biggest audiences we’d played for to date. No pressure then!

First up was Dan who usually plays guitar and bass but was playing handbells that day. He gave a very brave and moving talk about his recovery journey and how the orchestra has helped him to stop feeling on the edges of society, and has encouraged his personal growth. Seeing him speak so powerfully, it was almost impossible to imagine that he once drank two litres of vodka a day and was told by his doctor that he wouldn’t live to see his 40th birthday.

Then it was everybody else’s turn for the spotlight. We were about 15 musicians in total, all crammed together on what can only be described as an exceedingly small stage. Roger and Nick – two New Note stalwarts – had done an amazing job setting everything up quickly and quietly between speakers. They literally had ten minutes to get everything in place, plug in the amps and equipment, put chairs out with everyone’s names on – and then recover their composure in time to take their own positions on keyboards (Nick) and on guitar (Roger).

Once the music had died away, the audience’s reaction was amazing. They seemed to have connected directly to the energy of the performance as well as the commitment shown by the musicians to overcome adversity, and responded in kind with a standing ovation. We were all a bit emotional!

Sophie Chung, one of the event organisers, said afterwards: “TEDx is about sharing ideas to change the way we see and do things for the better.

“We were incredibly lucky to have the privilege of New Note orchestra members share with us their journey and perform live in London, showing how a different approach to recovery can have such a meaningful impact.

“Thank you to the group for taking the time to put together the performance, travel up from Brighton, navigate some very difficult stage logistics (!), and create such a lasting impact. The power of the performance really speaks for itself – please do watch and share!”

You can watch the performance here, and then afterwards why not watch the short films that we made to accompany A Sense of Place to find out more about the woodland in East Sussex where Nick likes to retreat to meditate and how Roger finds solace in his beloved guitar.

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