Mary Savard offers St. Clair Neighbours the Gift of Music from the Heart
Mary Savard often gets lost inside the complex tones and notes of the harp when emotion takes control of her fingers and she plays music directly from her heart and soul. The soothing combination of vibration and melody from the instrument’s many strings has a way of boring into the core of a player or listener, inspiring a sense of calm and a release of anxiety and stress.
Music, in all its many forms, has been central in Mary’s life from the time she was old enough to sit upon her mother’s lap at the piano and stroke the keys with her tiny fingers. In early 2016 when her mother, Nora, moved into The Village at St. Clair after suffering a devastating stroke, the piano in the Village chapel was one of the first things that caught Mary’s eye.
‘Absolutely,’ said Derek, the village chaplain when Mary asked if she could play piano for her mother from time to time. Before long, Mary was volunteering to play during Sunday services and she became a fixture in the village; she grew to know the neighbours (residents) and team members as extended family and felt great comfort in knowing her mother was supported by a kind and compassionate team. As a volunteer, she became part of that team and after her mother passed in April, with so many people around her that truly cared and helped make a terrible time somewhat beautiful, Mary knew she would remain a part of the village.
“I really felt that this was part of my family and I thought, I can’t just remove myself from here,” she says. “I felt so close to everybody.”
Not long after her mother passed, Mary was sitting in The Village thinking of how she would sit quietly by the fireplace beside her mother on cold winter days, and the idea of a playing her harp beside the fire for neighbours who are less active in the village came to her.
Harp and Healing by the Hearth, she calls it. Twice a month, Mary plays the graceful notes of her harp in the library alongside neighbours who, in some way or another, are trapped inside themselves because of the challenges they face. She seeks the neighbours who are physically or cognitively unable to get the most out of Village life.
“I greet all the residents and ask if it’s okay that I play for them,” Mary says. “Some of them can’t speak, which is fine, but I hold their hand and they nod their heads.” Some uplifting poetry begins each session before Mary begins to play, and when she does she sees the power of the music as it connects to each person.
“I wanted the neighbours to feel my love for the harp and in essence they would feel loved too,” Mary says. “Music, I feel is a way of giving people a voice who cannot speak.”
She hopes to offer a sense of relaxation for the neighbours who attend the fireside sessions, and recalls after playing for the first group a gentleman calling the tones he heard “magical.” Perhaps there is magic in the harp, for Mary finds that playing for others is a way to honour the emotions that well up when she recalls her beloved mother and the vibrancy that was lost when the stroke happened.
There is healing to be found beside the hearth, to be sure, and in the community that welcomed Mary into The Village at St. Clair.
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