At the weekend I saw a new side of the ubiquitous Jonathan Ross. Witty? Rude? Intelligent? Overpaid? These are frequently remarked-on aspects of Mr Ross, although some say that nowadays he shows a little more humility after his recent problems. The qualities I saw, or rather heard on 25 April, you could call humanity, empathy, genuine interest in and knowledge of larger issues than the showbiz stuff that we can all ingest and enjoy on his radio and TV shows.
What prompted this, at 11.50 on a Saturday morning on his BBC Radio 2 show, (yes, I was so impressed I even made a note of the time) was a phone call from a woman with a record request. Jonathan asked the caller what her job was; she replied that she worked in a rehabilitation hospital. He asked what kinds of patients were treated there and it turned out that many of them were stroke survivors.
Rather than wrapping the conversation up with a few banalities, as many radio presenters would have, Ross followed up with intelligent and interested questions about stroke: the work; the patients; the effects of this devastating condition; the importance of speedy diagnosis and treatment. He was clearly well aware of the recent Department of Health advertising campaign and, with his customary verbal creativity, managed to work that campaign’s “FAST” slogan into his closing comments. Full marks Jonathan Ross, for whom I have a new-found respect.
I’ve been reading a report on Arts and Health (http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_073590 ) about the health benefits of a variety of artistic activities: both for therapy and disease prevention. One of the sections talked about the benefits of singing. Stuff you already know anecdotally, if you ever sing, whether in the shower (alone or with a partner), in a choir, or even on a stage. Singing, especially with other people, makes you feel good; and this report demonstrated it can also do you good. Physical as well as psychological benefits.
Yesterday, another endorsement of this most enjoyable pastime, from a totally different source and angle. The “Thought For The Day” in BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme, started by enthusing about Venezuela’s system of youth orchestras – the best-known is the Simon Bolivar – improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan kids by teaching them to play classical music.
There are similar initiatives in the UK. Many of them are about singing rather than instrumental music; that avoids the cost of instruments. (Of course we are not such a rich country as Venezuela, are we?). The payback seems to have been fantastic. Check out the link; (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00jr4qm and go to 1 hr 49 mins)
I liked the comment of a Yorkshire primary school head teacher who reported greatly improved behaviour since class singing was prioritised. Her explanation:
“You can pay a fortune for sports equipment and coaches; one of the by-products is that the children learn to be competitive. Hire a part-time singing teacher and they learn to be cooperative.”