Joan Palmer. My Life and Experience.
My love of music and singing began when I was a pupil at Godalming Grammar School in Surrey where every year a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta was produced. I first performed in The Gondoliers there in 1951 and from then on was in love with music. I left school at the age of sixteen, began working in a bank and started vocal tuition in the evenings. I gradually developed my soprano voice and continued training until I married.
Whilst training I was a member of several performing groups and took part in numerous stage shows; Gilbert and Sullivan, Principal boy in pantos, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Brigadoon, Fiddler on the Roof and many more. When I married my husband encouraged me to continue with my stage work but sadly he developed heart disease and passed away in 1983 when he was only forty nine and I was forty five. It was a terrible time for me and our children but because I had sung throughout my marriage I was able to continue doing so and it was this that helped me to carry on with my life.
After that I became a semi professional vocalist and sang in many venues in the south east of England. I had left full time banking but worked a few hours each week in nursing or care homes, helping to stimulate the minds of elderly people. I also worked in a long term private rehabilitation hospital where I helped with the social rehabilitation of people who had suffered brain damage following strokes or accidents. Although I could have entertained the residents myself, I was with them all day and felt they needed the stimulus of new faces so I invited other people in to entertain them. However, I soon realised this was a mistake because most singers believed they should sing 'Roll out the barrel', It's a long way to Tipperary, or the like and others with a more varied repertoire just sang song after song, doing nothing to involve or stimulate minds.
That was when my idea for 'Memories Shared Thro' Song' was born. I realised that by singing a variety of different types of songs and then speaking to the audience about events that happened during the year the songs were composed I could involve people as well as entertain them. I started by using the programme as a general entertainment in clubs and am glad to say it was very popular and a lot of fun, both for the audience and me.
Once I was sure it was successful, I stopped working regular hours and, as well as continuing to take ‘Memories’ to clubs, I started taking it to care homes where it not only entertained those who were still mentally active but was also invaluable as a reminiscence therapy for those suffering from dementia.
You will have guessed from the dates I have mentioned that I am now one of those elderly myself. The photograph you see is how I looked back in 1995 when I was fifty seven; a good many wrinkles have been added since then and I no longer sing but I keep my mind active and still want to try and help others less fortunate than myself.
I made the 'Memories Shared Thro' Song CD in 1995 and later developed the booklet which explains how someone other than myself can play the songs and conduct sessions, either as an entertainment or as a reminiscence therapy. Although I have known for many years that the use of music is excellent for dementia sufferers, it is only now becoming a generally accepted fact, which is why I decided to make ‘Memories Shared Thro’ Song’ available via this web site.
I hope the programme will be beneficial and bring rewarding times for all carers and the people they care for.
Throughout the process of developing 'Memories Shared Thro' Song' I was encouraged by the late Hughie Green whose commendation letter can be viewed HERE. During his life time he helped and inspired many performers but the press were very unkind when he passed away. However, I was privileged to know him personally and can honestly say he truly was a wonderful man and every bit as genuine as his catchphrase 'sincerely folks' suggested.