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Live music brings joy to Mount Alvernia residents in lockdown… but from a distance

Eyleen Gomez

In their fourth week of lockdown, the residents of Mount Alvernia were treated to some traditional Mexican songs and music courtesy of Karina Ortiz who performed outside the building.

Dressed in traditional Mexican dress, with red embroidery and wearing a large colourful floral headpiece, Ms Ortiz wowed the residents, who cheered, sung along and danced with joy and happiness evident from everyone.

Ms Ortiz is from Mexico but lives in Gibraltar because she “fell in love with a llanito.”

She performs locally and in Spain at various venues, but this was the first time she performed at Mount Alvernia.

“Music is a universal language and I even if they do not speak Spanish people can feel the love that I try to project to them and the joy too,” she said.

“So for me it is an honour to be here and it is time for them to enjoy now.”

The idea to provide entertainment to residents is the brainchild of Isobel Ellul from the GHA.

“Well the idea started when I was at Ocean Views a couple of weeks ago and some of the nurses are playing music with patients because music is therapy,” she said.

“There is this wonderful live streaming as well taking place every Friday night [Friday night live safe edition] but again that wasn’t really possible to have residents sit around a screen and live stream music.”

“So we thought, ‘How can we bring them some music?’, and I got in touch with the Musicians Association of Gibraltar and they said ‘well we could do something live’,” she added.

The performance took place outside to avoid contaminating Mount Alvernia due to Covid-19.

Karen Truman, a clinical nurse manager for Elderly Residential Services, explained how important music and entertainment is in general but in particular in a lockdown environment.

“The staff here are doing the best they can to stimulate residents but obviously variety is the spice of life,” said Ms Truman.

“A lot of our residents here have dementia and music is vitality important to people with dementia and it often sparks of a lot of memories and happy memories most of the time.”

“Having someone coming to do something like this for them is amazing.”

As the residents experience their fourth week of lock down ERS have increased the number of staff, adding extra activities and also introducing an iPad-based system where people can speak to their loved ones. This is in addition to the usual activities Mount Alvernia provide.

Steven ‘Noni’ Belilo, from the Musicians Association of Gibraltar, said that as soon as he got the call from Ms Ellul he put the question to the musicians to see if someone could come up with any ideas.

Many were able to but some are restricted in their movements but enough musicians have come forward to enable a series of events like this to be performed for Gibraltar’s elderly residents.

“This is our first one, we are going to do more so we can really help those people who are trapped inside their place and cannot go out,” he said.

“We have brought Karina to come today I think they will like it.”

While he did not select the music that would be sung Mr Belilo was confident that the residents would enjoy Ms Ortiz’s performance.

“Karina is going to be singing boleros and Mexican classics and I am sure that they will appreciate that because Gibraltar back in the 60s and 70s they used to listen to a lot of Mexican music. So I think it will be perfect for Mount Alvernia,” he said.

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