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Pierre Rancourt

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  • Palliative care
  • Mental health

Pierre Rancourt : Music in Palliative Care


Pierre Ran­court: Music in Pal­lia­tive Care

One of the work envi­ron­ments that appeals to me the most is pal­lia­tive care, so I had the chance recent­ly with the soci­ety for arts in health­care, to work to bring music to peo­ple at the end of their lives.

It’s real­ly a spe­cial con­text because that there is a need (and) music allows access to the world of emo­tions at a peri­od of life (the end of life) which is very, very emo­tion­al­ly charged at this level.

So I have the impres­sion that what I see is that it allows a kind of paci­fi­ca­tion, a calm. Obvi­ous­ly, you have to be very, let’s say, atten­tive as an artist at reper­toire lev­el. I’m an opera singer so for sure I will not sing with a big voice. All the art of music medi­a­tion is to feel who we are in front of. What is this per­son experiencing.

So pal­lia­tive care, yes, it’s some­thing that has attract­ed me for many years. I mean, I sang for my moth­er at the end of her life, those were unfor­get­table moments. I have sung in con­texts like this sev­er­al times dur­ing my stud­ies, and I find that, as an artist, it is a process that is bidi­rec­tion­al. It nour­ish­es the peo­ple to whom we offer it, to whom we allow to express things that can­not express our­selves in words through our music. But, it also nour­ish­es the artist who presents who is there (the medi­at­ing artist) who sees him­self con­front­ed with a sit­u­a­tion in which there is no pos­si­ble fake. We can’t pre­tend. You absolute­ly have to be in the truth of the moment. You have to be in the exchange sin­cere, and it’s very nour­ish­ing for an artist. So, that’s it. This is some­thing that real­ly mat­ters to me.

The Impacts of Music on Health

Yes. In the case of con­certs (let’s say) more orga­nized to which we are able to invite peo­ple, fam­i­ly, sig­nif­i­cant peo­ple, it’s obvi­ous that there is prepa­ra­tion. A choice of the reper­toire must be made. Just in this process, the fam­i­ly in con­nec­tion with the per­son who is near­ing the end of life, the choice of reper­toire, it allows a whole return on the themes of life, so there is a kind of phe­nom­e­non of life assess­ment which can be done through the con­struc­tion of a mini con­cert, a mini con­cert program.

The works will cho­sen accord­ing to cer­tain life pri­or­i­ties. There is def­i­nite­ly a trans­mis­sion. A cul­tur­al her­itage that is bequeathed, which gives the fam­i­ly a feel­ing of cohe­sion that they real­ly need in those moments. So, in terms of fam­i­ly cohe­sion, it can con­tribute to a cul­tur­al inher­i­tance. Then, for the per­son them­selves who is at the end of its life, it is cer­tain that the ben­e­fits are doc­u­ment­ed at var­i­ous lev­els of health: good heart rate, pres­sure, anx­i­ety lev­el, all that. It is obvi­ous that there is marked improvement.

There can be also emo­tion­al reac­tions (let’s say) of cathar­sis that occurs. A kind of access to emo­tions that once would have been turned away. So that is very ben­e­fi­cial. What we notice is that there is also a change in the per­son­’s breathing.

It’s even hap­pened for me to sing for peo­ple near end of life who were in a coma or uncon­scious­ness, and we even note in these cas­es, a change in breath­ing levels.

What was your path to work­ing in Music and Health?

For me, music is an act of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, even if I prac­tice alone in my liv­ing room. It’s in pre­dic­tion of one day being able to deliv­er it.

Music is an act, by def­i­n­i­tion, that is com­mu­nal. Singing in par­tic­u­lar is one of these modes of ances­tral com­mu­ni­ca­tion which we relates to real­ly, real­ly far back in evo­lu­tion. As such, it amounts to when it stim­u­lates a part of us like that, a mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion or ances­tral meet­ing, there is real­ly some­thing very spe­cial happening.

I think that’s what got me into health. I start­ed singing in the lit­tle church choir in my vil­lage, so there was from the begin­ning of my musi­cal expe­ri­ence, an aspect of fam­i­ly. There was my uncle who was there, there was my aunt.We knew every­one. There was an aspect of reunion, an aspect of family.

Then when we work in the health field, and we talk about inclu­sion. We’re talk­ing about bring­ing back music, bring­ing music to peo­ple who have less access to it. It’s work with autis­tic peo­ple, for work­ing with peo­ple who live with func­tion­al lim­i­ta­tions, (for) work­ing with peo­ple in diverse envi­ron­ments and, in this case, we were talk­ing about pal­lia­tive care.

We not only bring the music, because music is acces­si­ble to any­one on your phone at any time, but we bring live music.

Live music, the vibra­tion of air par­ti­cles pro­duced by an instru­ment in per­son. With that, we have some­thing that real­ly anchors us in the community.

What does Music and Health mean to you?

Hel­lo, my name is Pierre Ran­cour. I’m a bari­tone, a trained opera singer, also a gui­tarist and cul­tur­al mediator.

Music and health. For me, music is health because in my per­son­al prac­tice, my rehearsals, my singing, these are always moments of joy, of hap­pi­ness, moments of recon­nec­tion to myself, moments of vital­iza­tion, but at the same time of calm, of expan­sion, of moments when I feel com­plete. So I think that it’s cer­tain that all of this of which we’re talk­ing about, is about qual­i­ty of life. We are talk­ing about increas­ing our own qual­i­ty of life as a per­former. That the per­son­al prac­tice is syn­ony­mous with plea­sure, then this inspires us when we do music in cul­tur­al and health contexts.

It makes us want to share this joy there. This phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and men­tal well-being becomes con­ta­gious. And in my expe­ri­ence in dif­fer­ent health­care set­tings that I’ve worked in with music, that’s real­ly what hap­pens. It is because there is a qual­i­ty of ener­gy, a vibra­tion when we make music that we are shar­ing and trans­mit­ting to oth­ers. So the

the way we pose our voice, the way we come into con­tact, the open­ing that we real­ly feel — almost at the lev­el of the solar plexus. Some­thing in the order of confidence.

There are many ben­e­fits that I notice in all the envi­ron­ments in which I have worked with music.  It’s obvi­ous. Research proves them. The research is there to doc­u­ment all these ben­e­fits of music, but I see it on the ground. I see that this is a ser­vice that can eas­i­ly be min­i­mized (cul­ture, music, the human con­tact). That’s what we do. It’s about com­ing into con­tact, it’s about vibrat­ing togeth­er. But this is not to be min­i­mized, on the con­trary, it’s some­thing excep­tion­al­ly powerful.

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