World Alzheimer’s Day: new film shows how Manchester music group helped one man as he battled the illness

The film, called Keith, is based on the life of a man the orchestra met at one of its creative music-making sessions.

A Manchester classical music ensemble has released a powerful short film about early-onset dementia on World Alzheimer’s Day.

The Manchester Camerata has revealed Keith, the second work in its Untold series of digital pieces.

The moving 16-minute film is based on the life of a man from Greater Manchester the orchestra met during one of its creative music-making sessions.

It is also a particularly apt topic for the Camerata as it has just launched a new music cafe in the city supporting people with the devastating memory-loss condition.

A visual and musical response to early-onset dementia

The short film Keith is inspired by a Wigan man the Camerata met at an event in 2018.

Previously a coach driver for football clubs across the North West, a member of the Grenadier Guards and an avid music fan, the film includes Keith’s personal account of how dementia affects the everyday life of him and his wife Joan.

It also shows how music helps him in transformative ways.

A scene from the short film, which has been released on World Alzheimer’s Day

The film offers a visual and musical response to early onset dementia, creating a narrative inspired by Keith’s experience to raise awareness on World Alzheimer’s Day.

The Camerata appears on screen in the film, playing music by Mozart, Handel, Schubert, Michael Masser and Dan Hill, with all the pieces chosen by Keith.

Celebrated actress Julie Hesmondhalgh is also involved in the project, providing the film’s voiceover.

A commitment to supporting people with dementia and their loved ones

The film comes just weeks after the orchestra launched its brand-new music café in the stunning surroundings of The Monastery in Gorton.

The weekly sessions extend the orchestra’s community work to support those living with dementia and their at-home carers.

Participants are encouraged to share and reconnect with their love of music, chatting about, creating. dancing and even performing their own songs with the support of the Manchester Camerata’s team of music therapists and specially-trained musicians.

Musicians playing in the short film about early-onset dementia

Carers can also learn how they can also use music to support their loved ones with dementia when they’re back at home.

The sessions take place in Covid-safe surroundings every Wednesday for two hours from 10.30am.

The Camerata is also involved in dementia research partnership with The University of Manchester, which has shown how music empowers people living with the memory-loss condition.

A series of films showcasing music’s ability to heal

The Untold series of short films is being directed by award-winning Manchester film-maker Paul Sapin.

Each one hopes to achieve the same goal - “to heal through music” in the words of the Camerata’s music director Gábor Takács-Nagy - and Keith is the second in the series.

The first episode came out in October 2020 and featured Caroline Pether, the leader of the Manchester Camerata, revealing her own journey to acceptance as a gay, Christian woman.

The short film is the second in the Untold series of works

The films all explore themes of identity, belonging, loss, love, community and inequality and each one features music from the orchestra’s players.

Fusing music, spoken word and film, the project is something of a new adventure for the musicians, and was created at a time when conventional live performance was heavily restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

What do those involved say?

Keith has expressed his delight at the portrayal of his life, love of music and condition on screen.

“I was blown away with the production. It brought me to tears,” he said.

“The way Neil Bell portrayed me was so true and lifelike. Neil’s actions throughout the production were so lifelike, people in my bubble all said it was me to a tee.

“Also, the way Julie Hesmondhalgh did the voiceover was excellent.

“I don’t say it often but thank you and love to everyone for helping me understand my dementia.

“It was difficult to explain just how my brain works to people but you executed me perfectly.”