Boys from the school Chapel Choir and girls from Bedford Girls’ School delighted a group of elderly people from the charity Music 4 Memory on Thursday 12 December with a delightful rendition of an old school song, Bedford by the River.

Included in the group were Old Bedfordians John Wagstaff (59-66) and Clive Willsteed (48-56), both of whom suffer from dementia. John and Clive attend a group held every Thursday by Music for Memory and, after suddenly remembering Bedford by the River, have been singing it at the session for a little while. While singing the song, they become more animated, they dance and laugh and their spirits lift.

Their love of the song, which obviously takes them right back to their days at Bedford School, inspired Director of Services at Music 4 Memory Jeni Melia to contact the Old Bedfordians Club to ask if they recognised the old school song. The Club immediately recognised the song and arranged to give them a tour of their old school. They then contacted Director of Music Joss Sanders and, thanks to his heart-warming response, the Chapel Choir joined forces with girls from Bedford Girls’ School to perform a beautiful arrangement of the song. 

John and Clive were then invited to sing with the choir, which they did with such enthusiasm and passion – it was an absolute joy to watch; children of today and the Old Bedfordians joined together through the power of music. It was a beautiful moment with not a dry eye in the house.

Jeni told us, “It has been truly wonderful to witness this occasion for John and Clive. They have a renewed sense of who they are and where they have come from, as do the family and friends who care for them.

Since the song came back to John, we have witnessed his obvious pride and fondness for his school days. He used to sing in the Chapel Choir, and it was a privilege to see both John and Clive singing the old school song with current pupils at Bedford School and Bedford Girls’ School. Your pupils were a credit to your schools, warm and friendly, sensitive and kind, fully engaged and so talented!”

The choir then went on to sing Christmas carols which inspired some of the group to get up and dance. At the very end of the session, boys, staff, members of the group and charity leaders all sang the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah to celebrate the pending festive season.

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