An expert has blended fragrances with music from Hallé orchestra musicians to give people with dementia a whole new experience.
They have listened to music from Spain with the smell of oranges in the air and soothing music set to the scent of lavender, while the whiff of the beach set the scene for some water music.
The collaboration between top creative perfumer Kate Williams and Hallé musicians is being explored by the Pendine Park care organisation.
Their partnership with the Hallé and Welsh National Opera has already earned Pendine Park an award from Arts and Business Cymru, when it recently won the Arts, Business and the Community Award, sponsored by Wales and West Utilities.
The sessions have been staged for residents at Bodlondeb, Pendine Park’s purpose built centre of excellence to look after people with dementia.
Kate, creative perfumer for Manchester-based Seven Scents, the wholly owned subsidiary of PZ Cussons’ fragrance division, said:
“I think it’s very beneficial for people with dementia. A pleasant smell in the room is so uplifting. Our sessions have gone really well and the feedback has been very positive.
”I have a working relationship with the Hallé through the sponsorship link with our parent company PZ Cussons. We wanted to develop the relationship and I started working creatively with Hallé composer and Education Director Steve Pickett, putting together fragrances with the music and taking them into schools.
“He said it would be good if I looked at the work the Hallé does with homes, like Pendine Park.”
Kate pointed out that food fragrances released automatically have already helped dementia patients who can forget to feed themselves at mealtimes. The smell of food reminds them to eat.
Pendine Park’s Artist-in-Residence, Sarah Edwards, said: “For our first session we had a theme – ‘holidays’ – and matched the music and fragrances accordingly.
“For instance Kate produced a smell of oranges and then the musicians played some Spanish music.
“Kate also produced the smell of fresh cut grass and lavender and is going to produce candy floss for another session.
“The reaction from the residents was good. We noticed the fragrances stimulated them, particularly the orange smell when they became a lot noisier! The lavender made everyone more chilled and relaxed.
“The fragrance therapy is part of a wider project to create new training modules for our care staff, promoting the arts and various therapies so we can enrich people’s lives.”
Kate added: “With the orange smell the residents got a real buzz about it and loved engaging with the music.
“There is a composition for residents to become involved using rain sticks so that it builds up from rain to a storm, for which I produce a beach/marine fragrance.
“In my job I create fragrances for everything from shower gels to laundry products, perfume to aftershaves, it’s just the theme which is different here. I produce the fragrances in a spray and spray it onto blotters which the residents can keep hold of.
“When we had the calming lavender music we had a few residents drifting off!”
She’s working on a Pendine request for the holiday music by producing the smell of a coconut suntan lotion.
The music was provided by Hallé musicians, including Pendine Park’s Musician in Residence, Janet Simpson, who plays the piano and celeste, and cellist David Petri.
Steve Pickett said: “PZ Cussons is one of our major sponsors and as a company they are fun to work with because they do not simply give us money – they are really interested in what we do and how we do it.
“We have a number of strategies, for our schools concerts we started off with a theme about the senses and Kate designed some scratch and sniff cards for the children to use during the concerts.
“The Hallé has also done some improvisational things at Cussons as part of team building exercises. Kate has done other general work involving dementia and has also done work with the Seashell Trust (for the deaf) where PZ Cussons and Hallé have connections.
“Hallé have been involved in music in residence at Pendine for about three years now and Cussons was interested in what we do here.”
Kate studied psychology at university but for her Masters looked at the interaction between fragrances and what people choose. That led her to the little-known world of the perfume industry.
And what happens to a creative perfumer when she gets a cold?
“I have to do my paperwork,” added Kate.