Viewers In Tears As Vicky McClure Forms Dementia Choir
A poignant new two-part documentary has seen actor Vicky McClure form an 18-strong choir made up of people living with dementia, aiming to prove the effect of music on those living with the condition.
In the first episode of Our Dementia Choir, which aired this evening, the Line of Duty and This is England star discusses her own experiences with dementia - having seen the illness strip her grandmother of her 'bold, bright' demeanour.
"I watched my Nana being taken by dementia, and I watched her personality slowly fade away," McClure says in the programme.
"It's one of the hardest things to watch a family member go through."
She adds: "It leaves the shell of you."
But McClure says she also saw how music was one of the few things that helped, not only calming her grandmother down, but also bringing them back the 'old Nana'.
While she was devastated to watch what her Nana went through, McClure wants to use the experience as a means of helping others, having formed a unique choir made up of people living with dementia.
"I want to prove life doesn't end with a diagnosis," she explains.
Rehearsing together before eventually putting on an 'unforgettable performance', McClure hopes to highlight how music can stimulate a brain damaged by dementia, with the help of scientists exploring pioneering techniques and cutting edge scanning technology.
With 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia - a decline in cognition caused by damage to the brain - McClure wants to remind us that it can strike at any age.
In the first half of the documentary, as McClure is busy recruiting people for her choir, we meet 31-year-old former drummer and engineer Daniel, who was diagnosed with a rare form of genetic Alzheimer's two years ago.
The youngest member in the group choir, Daniel was forced to give up work after developing problems with his speech, memory, and motor skills.
However, as part of the documentary, Daniel takes part in a cutting edge experiment to see how his brainwaves are affected when he tries to play the drums again.
Talking through tears, Dan's partner, Jordan, says: "When Dan was diagnosed a lot of people said he can't drive, he can't do this, so it's actually really nice to see people challenge themselves - and prove to people that, because you've got dementia, it doesn't mean that you can't do something.
"You're still the person."
We're also introduced to Chris, 67, who has frontotemporal dementia. This affects the part of the brain that controls behaviour, making him unpredictable and, sometimes, inappropriate - at one point telling McClure about the 'bedroom antics' he and his wife Jane get up to.
Thankfully, both McClure and Jane are able to laugh off the awkward moment, with Jane begging her husband: "Can you please be good?!"
But Jane admits that, outside of the amusing moments, Chris' condition can also be extremely tough on their relationship.
"It's just like he's still here in body, but he's not the person I married," she says.
"I just find the whole thing so, so sad."
Speaking on The Victoria Derbyshire Show ahead of the first episode airing, McClure said: "Music has an effect - an emotional effect - on the people living with dementia, positively, because people have this assumption that when you're diagnosed that's it, your brain is shutting down and you're no longer able to be challenged or to do certain things.
"What we're saying is that's completely untrue. Scientifically we know it to be untrue, and my brain and a dementia brain are working in the same way in terms of an emotional connection to music.
"Music, to me, I believe it to be a bit of a drug. It does have that kind of effect on people."
She even said her Line of Duty co-stars had seen it and given it their seal of approval.
"They saw a very early cut when we were filming Line of Duty," she said.
"It was very emotional. We're all having a lovely time, pratting around on set, and that was what I'd being doing previous to shooting Line of Duty, and they were just really proud that this is something that I've got involved in."
McClure added: "We will find a cure. The people I've spoken to are very confident that within my lifetime we'll find a cure for a certain type of dementia.
"We need more research, we need more funding, we need more people taking it into the extreme of cancer research, and it's not there yet."
Understandingly, the 'inspirational' documentary has left viewers in floods of tears, with many praising its honesty.
Watching # dementiachoir :cry:sad but also uplifting what a fantastic programme , tears rolling down my face at these beautiful humans trapped inside their bodies with a horrible disease xx
- caroline popple (@popplem1) May 2, 2019
One person wrote on Twitter: "Watching # dementiachoir sad but also uplifting what a fantastic programme , tears rolling down my face at these beautiful humans trapped inside their bodies with a horrible disease xx."
Another viewer wrote: "Wow @#dementiachoir could you make me teary anymore amazing programme @Vicky_McClure."
A third said: "Absolutely incredible viewing. Both brilliant but heartbreaking. Our dementia choir with the fantastic Vicky McClure."
"Watching the #dementia Choir on @BBC is so inspiring. What an incredible power music has. #dementiachoir," added another.
Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure starts on BBC One on Thursday 2 May at 8pm and is available afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.
Featured Image Credit: BBC