On September 21, the BFO’s musicians played in a nursing home for the 200th time as part of the Community Week. “An 89-year-old lady came to us after the concert, saying ‘I worked in the fields all my life and didn’t even know that this thing could exist, it really made me cry’”, Lajos Dvorák, the leader of the program said about the Golden Years concerts.
Lajos Dvorák, the leader of the Golden Years program series for nursing homes, received a beautiful letter after the 200th concert. “Today, the residents and staff of Dél-Borsod Social Care Home in Mezőkeresztes could be part of magic and beauty. In this deeply unfair world, where social care is struggling to even survive, four wonderful people came to us and conjured up a magical morning restoring my belief that it was worth working for these people and doing this rather hard job. Music speaks for itself through the voice of the soul. The residents’ faces and the tears in their eyes showed how their soul was touched. I am also utterly grateful that the musicians considered the residents their equals, since music connecting people makes no difference between human beings”, writes Éva Nagy, the head of the institution, after the concert at Dél-Borsod Social Care Home, to Lajos Dvorák, who regularly receives grateful messages from the nursing homes. He said it was not unusual that photos of the handwritten lines of the elderly residents were sent to the musicians.
Wherever they go, they are invited back, but, while at some nursing homes they are now returning guests, it is also important to discover new places. There are still many nursing homes in Hungary that they have not visited yet. It was their first visit to Mezőkeresztes where they received that beautiful letter from, mentions Lajos Dvorák, who was asked by Iván Fischer in 2014 to organize the concerts. “I said of course I was pleased to do it and then started to look for the places where we could go. Since then, the demand has really increased and the list of institutions keeps getting longer. We usually get to 12 places in a series, and I try to include four in Budapest, four in Pest County and four in more remote areas.” Once a resident contacted them by e-mail after reading about the program series on the internet, and a group did visit the faraway nursing home during the following series.
“This is a truly rewarding task and such a wonderful experience that it is not even work: we give to them and they give to us. We feel refueled by the look in their eyes, and even if the applause cannot sound like that after a concert as we often play to fragile and sick people, it is a fantastic feeling to receive the gratitude.” Lajos Dvorák shared three particularly moving stories from the past seven years. He still often recalls what happened at one of the first concerts in June 2014 in Veresegyháza. “An 89-year-old lady came to us after the concert, saying ‘I worked in the fields all my life and didn’t even now that this thing could exist, it really made me cry’. This memory sill moves me to the core, as it is doing right now. We were dumbfounded as we realized right there what joy we could bring to these people.” In Cegléd, an elderly man approached the musicians after the concert and told them that while listening to the music, he had been thinking of a cultural event that he visited together with his wife who had died one and a half years before. The surprised caregivers later told us that the old man had been living with them since his wife's death, suffered from severe dementia, communicated with almost no one, and had never even been heard to talk to others. “Music triggered things in him that nothing else could.” Another memorable event took place in Kőbánya: “We were playing in the yard and an old lady suddenly exclaimed: ‘I can hear the music!'. A nurse told us later that the lady was hard of hearing and could only perceive very little from the world around her. This actually confirms that we can somehow hear music better.”
The musicians prepare for the Golden Years concerts slightly differently: depending on the venue, they select easier or more difficult, but definitely less grandiose pieces, and introduce them in a few words before performing them. These concerts are also different emotionally. “It’s more difficult to play. Many of the residents are just wheeled out in their housecoat, they are sick, hardly able to sit and suffer from dementia. It’s overwhelming. They sit right in front of us. There is some pain in all this. At the same time, it’s also much cozier.” Quite often, it is also difficult to see the circumstances, “there are nursing homes that can hardly function and look rather shabby with damp walls and no renovation. Of course, we go to play there too, but it is even harder at those places.”
They made efforts to continue with the concerts even during the COVID-19 period, playing in the yards as they could not enter the buildings due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, it was a great pleasure to bring music to the elderly isolated from the world, and the care workers. “On one occasion, we were only allowed to enter through the gate and then put down the four stands. The residents came out to the entrance hall and noisy cars and trucks were passing behind us on the main road. But still, this was a solution, we managed to get there and perform a program for the old people.” Also, in the spring, following months of streamed concerts, these were the places where the musicians first played again before a live audience. This is also captured in a short film. “I often asked for one more round of applause because we really needed to hear it. So we mutually did each other good. We give and they give too, which is wonderful. I would multiply these community programs if I could, as I believe that they provide a unique experience and have a unique impact.”