World-renowned keyboardist Rick Wakeman joined families being supported by their local children’s hospice for a musical journey through Scotland.
The band practice session, which also featured poetry, haggis and even a visit from the Loch Ness Monster, took place at The Treehouse last Thursday.
It was for children and families receiving care and support from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) and Rick, who performed at last year’s Happy Christmas Ipswich 4 fundraiser, was invited in his capacity as patron of the Lifelites charity.
Lifelites provides the latest assistive and inclusive technology to children’s hospice and palliative care centres across the British Isles.
It helps children and young people play, create, communicate and express themselves, connecting with the people they love and the world around them.
Much of its donated technology was incorporated into the session – including a soundbeam being used to create the sound of bagpipes – and other representatives in attendance included chief executive Rob Lightfoot.
Rick, who had earlier been shown around the hospice, said: “It was a lovely session and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting The Treehouse. It was the first time I’d been but hopefully not the last.
“It’s an incredible place and I know how desperately important these children’s hospices are.
“They’re such happy, welcoming places and it feels like a vocation for the people that work in them.
“Everyone cares and wants to makes things happen for children and families and I can only imagine how fulfilling and rewarding it must be when you see results.
“It fills me with joy to see music therapy making such an astonishing difference.
“The technology is amazing. It helps unlock and release creativity in children’s brains, which is so exciting and wonderful, and I’m so proud to be associated with Lifelites and organisations like EACH.”
EACH hosts monthly band practice sessions and they usually have a theme.
To tie in with Burns Night on 25th January, this one centred around an imaginary train journey from Ipswich to Scotland.
Musical highlights included renditions of The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), The Sky Boat Song and Auld Lang Syne.
Rick also took a turn on the keyboard and treated the audience by playing a Scottish jig.
Children and families were encouraged to get involved by waving flags and silk scarves, singing along and playing windchimes, drums and bells.
They were able to tuck into haggis while other highlights included kilt-wearing volunteer Allan McClure – a proud Scotsman – reading a Billy Connelly poem and a member of staff wowing children by donning a home-made Loch Ness Monster costume.
The session was hosted by EACH Music Therapist Ray Travasso.
He said: “It’s such a pleasure to see everyone come along, have fun and get in the spirit at events like this.
“The way the children engage is incredible and building a community and making memories is what we’re all about.
“It’s also lovely for the families that receive support from EACH.
“Nights like this can be a real outlet for them, providing an opportunity to meet others in a similar situation, and that’s so important.
“We were delighted to welcome Rick. He’s a giant and pioneer of the music world, so to have his support meant a great deal.”
Among the children in attendance was eight-year-old Finnley Webster, who has the rare and complex congenital brain disorder Holoprosencephaly.
He was there with mum Jaycee and nan Karen.
Jaycee said: “It was a fantastic night and we genuinely appreciate everything EACH does.
“The team make such an effort to give us these special occasions, which are an opportunity to meet others in a similar position.
“There’s a genuine feelgood factor and a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. The Treehouse is a safe space for us – it’s our bubble.”
Pictures: Leo Martin/EACH