Mark Seymour pays tribute to his mother for Dementia Awareness Week
Early last year, singer-songwriter Mark Seymour was driving around Melbourne’s eastern suburbs with his father, looking for a nursing home for his mother.
The family had made the difficult decision to find high-level care for his mum, Paula, after a dramatic decline in her mental health due to Alzheimer’s. “It just really hit me that what I was going through was something that I had in common with thousands of other people,” says Seymour.
Those difficult events not only drew his family closer but became the seed for a song, Classrooms and Kitchens, which Seymour will perform for Dementia Awareness Week this week.
The song opens with Seymour’s earliest memory of his mother in the kitchen at their Corryong home, sewing and weaving. The chorus goes on to describe her at the nursing home, motionless in a chair by the window, in what he calls the “sting” in the song.
The former Hunters & Collectors frontman says personal experiences in songs resonate with the audience. “Nine times out of 10 it’s something really emotional, a specific incident I’ve lived through of one kind or another,” he says.
Seymour says his mother, now 90, was a huge influence on his career. She loved singing and encouraged her children to sing and play music.
New research shows music is the last part of the memory to submit to Alzheimer’s. I ask him whether Paula still sings. “Yes, she still sings, oddly enough. Songs are one thing that she is still able to really grasp.”
The family noticed her come alive when she is singing and have organised a music therapist to visit regularly. “It’s almost impossible to communicate with her now, in the normal framework of speech, but in singing she seems to be able to remember so many songs. It’s a part of her mind that still functions quite well.’’
Seymour believes music has the power to heal. He wrote Classrooms and Kitchens not only for his mother but for his family. He plays it regularly at gigs, believing it is vital to share his experiences. “It was something I could share with people and it had validity, as well as the fact that the disease is so widespread now.”
Seymour will perform at a free public lecture, Brain Health – Making the Connections at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at 10am on September 20. Details: visit register.eventarc.com/10280.