Our Dementia Choir With Vicky McClure

Ep 1/2

Thursday 2 May



In this new two-part series for BBC One, co-produced by the Open University, BAFTA-award winning actor Vicky McClure takes us on a deeply personal journey to discover the true extent of music’s power in fighting dementia. Joining forces with the University of Nottingham and University College London, and specialists from the fields of medicine, music therapy and performance she is forming a very special choir who will rehearse together to put on one unforgettable performance.

Vicky has close personal experience of dementia, through caring for her Nana Iris, who died in 2015. During that period, and through her role with the Alzheimer’s Society, Vicky has seen first-hand how music and singing had affected dementia patients and those who love and care for them.

Now, Vicky aims to spread the word on a much bigger scale. In this series she’ll meet the scientists exploring pioneering techniques and cutting edge scanning technology in order to reveal how music can stimulate a brain damaged by dementia. And, bringing her choir together, in just three months they’ll put on the biggest show of their lives with the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy in our understanding of how music therapy can help people with dementia.

In the first episode, Vicky starts the search for her choir meeting people with different types of dementia and at different stages. The youngest choir member is 31-year-old Daniel who was diagnosed with a rare form of genetic Alzheimer’s two years ago. A former drummer, Dan takes part in a cutting edge experiment to see how his brainwaves are affected when he tries to play the drums again.

We also meet Chris, 67, and his wife Jane. Chris was diagnosed three years ago with frontotemporal dementia. This affects the part of the brain that controls behaviour making him sometimes unpredictable. From the first rehearsals, Chris is desperate to get involved - and even volunteers to sing a solo.

The choir members will be kitted out with special wrist sensors that measure key changes to their bodies during each rehearsal, providing data to review at the end of the choir project, but also to contribute to a wider three year study by Prof Seb Crutch from the University College London.

Vicky’s own brain is scanned while she listens to different noises, and songs, to observe how sound stimulates her brain. Meanwhile, under the guidance of choirmaster Mark De-Lisser, the choir sets its sights on their first public performance to celebrate the marriage of one of its members.