At 317 Main, Sorcha Cribben-Merrill spends her days singing with our youngest musicians in the Little Roots program, but she is equally at home singing with music lovers at the other end of the spectrum.
Sorcha has monthly gigs at three assisted living facilities in greater Portland where she performs for residents with dementia.
“My only goal is for them to engage in the music,” said Sorcha as she and a musician friend,  Heather Styka, walk  past the nurses station at St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation and Residence carrying  instrument cases and music stands.
Inside the community room,  a half-dozen residents are waiting, some in wheelchairs, others walking slowly around the room.
Whether or not they remember Sorcha, she remembers them, some by name, and  banters easily as she and Heather pull out  guitars.
“I was really close to my grandparents,”  says Sorcha, explaining her obvious affinity for this age group.
In fact, much of the music she plays  at her nursing homes gigs was taught to her by her grandparents.
She and Heather  strum and harmonize their way through classics that would be familiar to this population such as Blue MoonOh Danny Boy and Ring of Fire.
Sorcha and Heather performing Ring of Fire
Sorcha and Heather performing Ring of Fire
As the performance continues, more residents stream into the room. Toes are tapping. A few keep the rhythm with their hands. Everyone is smiling.  Sorcha makes her way around the room making a point to connect with each resident.
“Music and specific songs can trigger memories,” said Amanda Arsenault, St. Joseph’s Activities Manager. “In addition to singing along,  it allows for reminiscing and sharing.”
When Sorcha pulls out her banjo, one  resident announces to the room,  “Roy Clark is one of the best banjo players in the world!”
A man in a wheel chair shouts, “have you ever tried playing Stardust?”
Like all good concerts, the time flies by and the mood in the room is lighter at the end,  a reminder of the intrinsic power of music.
“There’s so much communication and playfulness in music,” says Sorcha. “It’s a connection that goes beyond words. I really love it.”