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#2932271 - 06/11/18 11:15 AM Music selections for solo piano at a hospice
jeffinpghpa Offline
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Registered: 05/22/07
Posts: 473
Loc: Charlotte, NC
I'm going to be volunteering twice per month to play solo piano at a hospice.

I've never played in this type of environment and I am struggling with selecting music that is both recognizable, but more importantly appropriate.

I am not the best person at reading what's appropriate for a hospice. Music selections can be both uplifting and inspirational, and deeply sad at the same time. For example, would performing songs like "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", "Autumn Leaves" or "Yesterday" be appropriate for a hospice? These are beautiful songs from the standards songbook, but I don't really if I am really going for upbeat or somber/reflective.

Some others that I was thinking of - Bridge over Troubled Waters, Against All Odds, Here Comes The Sun, Blackbird, Vienna, etc.

Is an instumental like "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" uplifting or depressing for someone in a hospice? I want to create a positive and enjoyable experience, without making it party music.

Interested in ideas from you all.
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#2932272 - 06/11/18 11:18 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: jeffinpghpa]
J. Dan Offline
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I wouldn't overthink it. I think they'll appreciate anything you play. I'm basing that on a couple times back in college that I played at a nursing home.
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#2932275 - 06/11/18 11:24 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: J. Dan]
Outkaster Offline
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"Somewhere Over The Rainbow", "Autumn Leaves" or "Yesterday"? Great songs but also very sad in a way.
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#2932276 - 06/11/18 11:28 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: J. Dan]
slowtraveler Offline
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Registered: 03/07/13
Posts: 396
Loc: Boston, MA
Patients in hospice (and their families) can be all over the place emotionally--anywhere from peaceful to very anguished. Maybe ask the hospice staff for guidance as to programming. Also, it might be very much appreciated if you are willing to field an occasional request. Perhaps the staff could help with that, as well.

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#2932277 - 06/11/18 11:38 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: slowtraveler]
Rod S Offline
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I second taking occasional requests - ask them for songs that are special to them. A lot of them are lonely and somebody playing something they really want to listen to will mean a lot!
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#2932279 - 06/11/18 11:50 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Rod S]
timwat Offline
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I do this kind of gig occasionally; my wife works at a skilled nursing facility. Many patients check in, in all manner of states of mind, and spend out there days there.

Remember that music reaches those beset by memory loss, dementia and all levels / severity of impairment in ways nothing else does. A profoundly demented, non-cognizant senior may become completely lucid and remember entire lyrics to a song from their youth, yet return to non-responsive state soon as the song ends. This is the gift we bring.

Indeed, we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams (Willy Wonka).

So my suggestion is play anything in your repertoire, and focus upon songs that date to a certain era that your audience may have an historical connection to. Elton John, perhaps not so much (or perhaps!). But the Great American Songbook isn't a collection of 'old standards' to this audience - it's the pop music of their youth.

Some of them grew up as youngsters listening to "If You Knew Susie" and "Charleston". It Had to Be You might be a song from grade school. You get the idea.

As always playing solo, I think the thing that matters most is melody. Make the melody sing. Folks will recognize and hum along - even if you never know it.

Of all the many things we do, and the many people we will play for, I think the music we bring without fanfare or applause to the weakest amongst us is perhaps the highest and most noble thing we do as musicians. Quietly, in small and shaded little facilities on tired nameless pianos. May someone bring us some music we love if we are lucky enough to live to see our twilight days.
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#2932284 - 06/11/18 12:00 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: timwat]
Bill H. Offline
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Played piano at my mom's assisted care center for years while she was alive. Anything is appreciated, but what would really engage the seniors was uptempo swing - just the cheesiest most familiar stuff like Blue Moon, Beyond The Sea, Cheek To Cheek, All Of Me. They'd smile, clap, and sometimes even get up and dance.

Put smiles on their faces and they'll love you every time smile

Edit: Don't know if this is a senior's hospice or not, but whatever it is, I'd try to keep the music positive and not be shy about playing uptempo. These are different sorts of things than - say - dinner music gigs. They will actually be listening wink


Edited by Bill H. (06/11/18 12:21 PM)

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#2932293 - 06/11/18 12:48 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Bill H.]
ElmerJFudd Offline
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Registered: 11/30/14
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Loc: USA, greater NY area
Show tunes and other hits from the 50s and 60s.
Great American song book as well.
Songs with great sentiment about th important things in life. Love, good times, good friends and memories, exotic places, lift people and illicit escape from our earthly shackles.
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#2932294 - 06/11/18 12:57 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Bill H.]
PianoMan51 Offline
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Hospice is different than a skilled nursing facility. At a hospice “patients “ are coming in for their last day or hours. You aren’t there to make them feel better. You’re there to help them let go. You don’t want them to sing along or be attracted to your music. You want to make music that will ease their transition from life to death in the most profoundly spiritual way possible.

Perhaps start a song but transition into a modal improvisation without melody or harmonic progression.

There are loads of sites on the web that can help.

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#2932296 - 06/11/18 01:03 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: PianoMan51]
drawback Offline
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I think the OP is on the right track (don't do Don't Let The Sun..) but I wonder too if some light classical would be appropriate.
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#2932301 - 06/11/18 01:34 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: drawback]
slowtraveler Offline
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Registered: 03/07/13
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Loc: Boston, MA
My brother worked for a while as a hospice chaplain. He said he was most effective when he approached a visit with no preconceptions. He found that people in hospice wanted many different things: to pray; to sing a song; to be entertained or distracted; to make small talk; and (sometimes) to talk about the meaning of their lives or impending deaths.

I think timwat's suggestion is very appropriate. Play anything in your repertoire, focus on things your listeners may have a connection to, and try not to make assumptions about what your role should be.

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#2932304 - 06/11/18 01:45 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: slowtraveler]
Joe Muscara Offline
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Perhaps this is obvious, but if you're going to be playing twice a month, you can adjust the set list as time goes on based on what works and what doesn't. As previously suggested, you might want to ask the staff before your first gig what they suggest. If they've had other musicians there they may remember some tunes that worked for them. As you go on, you will learn what works and you might adjust depending on the audience and the response that day. It's probably really important to be flexible.

Keep us posted on how it goes! thu
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#2932311 - 06/11/18 02:25 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Joe Muscara]
zxcvbnm098 Offline
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Registered: 12/02/05
Posts: 1312
Loc: Southern Calif.
Hospice workers are angels on earth.

We had hospice care for both of my parents, and their compassion and kindness was so amazing it's hard to put into words. They are truly special people...

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#2932314 - 06/11/18 03:07 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: zxcvbnm098]
jerrythek Offline
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Registered: 04/19/04
Posts: 1002
You didn't mention that you sing... without words I wouldn't worry about ANY song. They're all just melodies, and memories. You're not speaking any specific subject/topic, it's simply (hopefully) memorable music. Don't overthink it.

Jerry

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#2932315 - 06/11/18 03:19 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: jerrythek]
Desert Rat Offline
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Registered: 12/22/05
Posts: 419
Loc: Arizona, U.S.
I do visits, along with another pastor from our church, weekly to hospice and assisted living patients. My mother resides in an assisted living community and they have a piano in the main lobby that gets a workout from a variety of players with an even greater variety of talent. My only thought would be to see if the hospice would provide you a list of the resident's ages (only). Take their ages and guestimate where the majority would have been in their second decade of life (10-20 - The time period most people develop their musical tastes). See if you can find songs from that time period and I doubt seriously you will have any complaints. Yes, this may be overthinking it a bit, but it provides a learning experience while doing it and narrows the songlist a little.
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#2932318 - 06/11/18 03:47 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Desert Rat]
Adan Online   content
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As others have said, don't overthink it. They are delighted by anything they recognize.
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#2932320 - 06/11/18 04:10 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Bill H.]
Bobadohshe Offline
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Originally Posted By: Bill H.
Edit: Don't know if this is a senior's hospice or not, but whatever it is, I'd try to keep the music positive and not be shy about playing uptempo. These are different sorts of things than - say - dinner music gigs. They will actually be listening wink


Really great point.

I wouldn't shy away from the tunes that you suggested because of potentially sad lyrics. Just play these beautiful songs of old and you'll be good to go.
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#2932324 - 06/11/18 04:35 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: jeffinpghpa]
Jg53 Offline
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Registered: 11/24/14
Posts: 96
Loc: Pennsylvania USA
Ask yourself what music you would like to hear if you were the patient.

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#2932325 - 06/11/18 04:42 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Bobadohshe]
DulceLabs.com Offline
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Normally I would be with those who say "don't overthink it". But it in this day in age...I wouldn't take any chances. (FWIW, I'd be more concerned about the hospice patient's family, visitors, or even the staff being "offended" about any particular song choice.)

On my last cruise, someone yelled "Are you f-ing kidding me??? -- and stormed out of atrium" when the Russian string pop quartet girls (yeah -- they have those now - THANK YOU CARNIVAL! ) played "My Heart Will Go On" (for those not wanting to do the math: Song from Titanic on a cruise ship.)

My suggestion: Have the facility ask its patients what songs they'd like to hear during their stay or something. At least if you get push-back you can say it was requested.


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#2932333 - 06/11/18 06:42 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: jeffinpghpa]
SteveCoscia Offline
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Registered: 01/26/12
Posts: 589
Loc: Philadelphia, PA USA
I started playing piano at local hospice centers in February. It is rewarding. Sometimes the patients are barely conscious and other times they're lively and engaged. It's all good.

Repertoire is mostly 1920s to 1950s standards. Below are a few.

Tea For Two
I Got a Crush On You
Pennies From Heaven
Watch What Happens
Blue and Sentimental
Rhapsody In Blue (abridged & improvised)
Tenderly
Misty
More
Lady Is a Tramp
I Get a Kick Out of You

Your playing will be much appreciated by the hospice audience. Best of luck.
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#2932337 - 06/11/18 09:02 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: SteveCoscia]
hardware Offline
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Registered: 03/04/14
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War Pigs
We Wont Get Fooled Again
Foreplay/Longtime
Yesterday
Wild Thing (Sam Kinneson version)
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#2932340 - 06/11/18 10:26 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: jeffinpghpa]
Mighty Motif Max Offline
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Registered: 12/14/16
Posts: 255
Loc: Northeastern MN, U.S.
I’ve done this sort of thing for a long time, actually since before I really started gigging.

So from my experience, here is the advice I have:

Lighter stuff from the 1920s up through the early 50s always works well. Jazzy stuff especially. Stuff from Broadway. More “gentle” stuff is always appreciated too. Easy listening, Jim Brickman-style, and Frank Sinatra type stuff too. Sometimes, depending on the crowd, some ragtime type stuff works really well. Some well-known hymns can work too, since many will recognize the melody regardless. As a general rule of thumb, you want to play more stuff in major keys than in minor keys. Try to avoid really sad songs, either lyrics-wise, or tune-wise. Music is powerful, and often, for those in hospice and their families, the music sets the tone of the rest of their day, or for some patients, even their week. An occasional newer song is ok too, many enjoy the entertainment aspect as well, so if it has a good rhythm to it, it can work. Probably nothing too heavy though. If it’s decently musical, it works ok.

All this is assuming that this is an older crowd, and there is no voice. However, younger people often enjoy solo piano as much as the older people. If you play well, most people will enjoy listening.


-Max


Edited by Mighty Motif Max (06/11/18 10:29 PM)
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#2932361 - 06/12/18 05:16 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: Mighty Motif Max]
jeffinpghpa Offline
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Registered: 05/22/07
Posts: 473
Loc: Charlotte, NC
Yes, Max! That's exactly it. I am not singing. I would play this in a Jim Brickman easy listening style. I don't get many opportunities to gig in this style of playing and it's a nice repertoire.

I would mostly be playing as instrumental piano playing, but I have some really nice multis in my Kurzweil Forte that add some lush strings, pads, melodies on a flute or oboe, or some nice acoustic guitar patches for some other songs.

But yes, this is just easy listening instrumental. My rock and jazz friends don't really do this thing. It's both to give the gift of music as well as get a chance to play in a style that I often do alone with headphones or in my house, but never as a performance.

I really appreciate the advice - thank you!

Jeff
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#2932366 - 06/12/18 05:58 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: hardware]
MotiDave Offline
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Loc: San Diego, CA USA
Originally Posted By: hardware
War Pigs
We Wont Get Fooled Again
Foreplay/Longtime
Yesterday
Wild Thing (Sam Kinneson version)

Bro, i want you to play at my hospice before i pass over to the other side!!

For OP - something compels me to recommend Mack The Knife.
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#2932379 - 06/12/18 06:57 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: jeffinpghpa]
RABid Offline
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Originally Posted By: jeffinpghpa
...

Some others that I was thinking of - Bridge over Troubled Waters, Against All Odds, Here Comes The Sun, Blackbird, Vienna, etc.

...


Don't remind them of their problems, help them escape for a while. Stick to happy, cheerful songs that reminds them of their youth. Hospice can have a wide range of age. Anyone can have cancer. Take a variety of music and see what flies.
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#2932382 - 06/12/18 07:05 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: MotiDave]
hatricklov Offline
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Registered: 08/20/01
Posts: 218
Loc: CO
Semi-related story, in that this was for a senior center and not a hospice...

It was back in '92 in a rural community and I was asked to play a few songs. I had my parents luckily to help me overthink the playlist and played a number of ragtime and 1920s thru 1950s songs that I knew.

After 10-12 minutes, one of the seniors asked if they could make a request. Granted I was a teenager, but I played in a local country-rock band... so I said sure, if I know it.

She said, "Can you play Achey Breaky Heart by Billy Rae Cyrus?" It was the overplayed, country hit of the year at that time. Unfortunately, I knew how to play the (ridiculously simple) song... but happily obliged!

Moral of my story... there's always great songs from any decade or era, and ones that will take you back to a memory. But there's also something to be said about knowing/hearing a current song and feeling hip to the times. My two cents.

Go entertain and have fun!
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#2932447 - 06/12/18 12:57 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: hatricklov]
raddtunes Offline
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Joining the "don't overthink it" chorus here, but here's a guideline I use in similar situations - -

If the song is extremely well-known - - and if the main lyric hook of the song is something that is blatantly going to be a problem for the circumstance, then simply avoid that tune.

It's come up for me doing background music for political parties, and at events advocating social causes.

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#2932453 - 06/12/18 01:39 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: raddtunes]
MathOfInsects Online   content
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While I agree with the "don't overthink it, music is music" wing of the party, I would maybe think twice before playing "Another One Bites the Dust."
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#2932469 - 06/12/18 04:27 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: MathOfInsects]
Synthaholic Offline
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Moon River
Young At Heart
Last Date
Wave
Tennessee Waltz
Love Me Tender
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Let’s Get Away From It All
Jamaica Farewell
Song Sung Blue
South Of The Border
L-O-V-E
Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime
What A Wonderful World
Crazy
Always On My Mind
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#2932470 - 06/12/18 04:45 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: jeffinpghpa]
SteveCoscia Offline
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Posts: 589
Loc: Philadelphia, PA USA
Something else that works with the hospice crowd is a brief oral history of a song (i.e. composition year, the show from which the song came, the composer's background, etc. etc.). The audience enjoys the verbal break between songs and it adds a little lighthearted variety.

This oral interplay evolved over time and they like it.
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#2932473 - 06/12/18 05:17 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: SteveCoscia]
RABid Offline
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Originally Posted By: SteveCoscia
Something else that works with the hospice crowd is a brief oral history of a song (i.e. composition year, the show from which the song came, the composer's background, etc. etc.). The audience enjoys the verbal break between songs and it adds a little lighthearted variety.

This oral interplay evolved over time and they like it.


+1

Taking it further, you could take them on a trip through time, starting with music from the 30's and play through the decades.
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#2932494 - 06/12/18 08:26 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: MathOfInsects]
DulceLabs.com Offline
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Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
While I agree with the "don't overthink it, music is music" wing of the party, I would maybe think twice before playing "Another One Bites the Dust."


I would also add "Killing me Softly" to the no-go list.

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#2932496 - 06/12/18 08:29 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: DulceLabs.com]
MathOfInsects Online   content
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Originally Posted By: DulceLabs.com
Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
While I agree with the "don't overthink it, music is music" wing of the party, I would maybe think twice before playing "Another One Bites the Dust."


I would also add "Killing me Softly" to the no-go list.


Or “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight.”
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#2932503 - 06/12/18 11:51 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: MathOfInsects]
Jazzmammal Offline
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Registered: 08/17/12
Posts: 1849
Loc: Redondo Beach, CA
These suggestions are good but I will repeat what someone said earlier, hospice is not an old folks nursing home. News articles are full of people of all ages who are dying of various terminal illnesses. A friend my mine is 46 and just finished three courses of chemo with stage 4 cancer. The first one nearly killed him until they adjusted the dose and timing the flow. So far so good but he may also be headed for hospice.

Just show up and see who's there then decide on the tunes.

Bob

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#2932524 - 06/13/18 05:27 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: MathOfInsects]
bennyray Offline
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Registered: 12/06/14
Posts: 853
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
Originally Posted By: DulceLabs.com
Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
While I agree with the "don't overthink it, music is music" wing of the party, I would maybe think twice before playing "Another One Bites the Dust."


I would also add "Killing me Softly" to the no-go list.


Or “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight.”


Don't let me Down by the Beatles?
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#2932541 - 06/13/18 06:53 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: SteveCoscia]
rickp Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 11/17/14
Posts: 291
Jeff, I play every quarter or so at a facility that sounds very similar to the venue you've described but with some nursing home attendees as well, and although it is structured to be 90 minutes, it always goes well over 2 hours. It has evolved into being fully interactive with a totally "by request" playing by ear format, sans music or setlist.

Probably a full 2/3 of the requested songs are hymns. The group that requests "wartime" WWII songs is, sadly, quickly dwindling. Knowing a song or two by Elvis, Sinatra, Nelson Riddle, Floyd Cramer, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Streisand, Neil Diamond (this group nails "Sweet Caroline"), Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, Pat Boone, Connie Francis, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Nat King Cole and/or Connie Francis will get you a long way. Songs from their youth are requested much more often than songs from their later years.

If I don't know something requested, sometimes one or two of them will collaborate to hum or sound it out, and they're very content with and appreciative of a sincere effort to try to first peck out the melody and then add more structure with each verse/chorus. The quality of the interaction and of having their requests valued seems to mean far more to them than the actual quality of the music - which I hope is mostly good but admittedly sometimes suffers from lack of familiarity or from having to pull through so many mental cobwebs.

The smiles and thanks at the end of the session are priceless. If you feel comfortable with a "by request" format, I think you'll be very happy with the result.
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#2932607 - 06/13/18 01:02 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: rickp]
ProfD Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 05/11/06
Posts: 9579
Loc: Wash DC Area
Yep. Don't over think it. But, try not to make it sound like a funeral service either.

Avoid playing "I Won't Complain", "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and "Precious Lord". laugh cool
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"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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#2932840 - 06/14/18 08:26 PM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: SteveCoscia]
SteveVasil Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 08/21/16
Posts: 45
Loc: GA, USA
Two Sleepy People, Georgia on my Mind, Stardust, or something else by Hoagie Carmichael. Hoagie Carmichael attended law school(Maurer School of Law in Bloomington Indiana, same school my son attended) before becoming a songwriter. He appeared in a few movies also. Aint Misbehavin is nice. Page 43, which was on a Crosby/Nash album. It may be ideal to be genuine and respectful.

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#2932903 - 06/15/18 08:07 AM Re: Music selections for solo piano at a hospice [Re: SteveVasil]
mediocrepianist Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/05/18
Posts: 34
My Neck, My Back?

https://youtu.be/MdIPj7xANm0

On a more serious note if it's going to be a regular gig ask them what they'd like to hear you play and go away and learn some of the ones thy suggest that you can play in future elsewhere for the next time your in.

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