Power of Music

27 Mar 2023

When you walk through our doors on a Thursday, your spirits lift.  

You are hit with the emotional power of music. Each week at lunchtime, our foyer is transformed by the rich and enchanting voices of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Choir filling the atrium.

This remarkable choir is a part of our music therapy program led by Dr Emma O’Brien OAM and her small but passionate team, Kat Rickards, Harry Thwaites-Tregilgas and Choir Master Robert Teicher. It is comprised of members within our community, staff, families, loved ones, and patients. Music is one of the many ways we deliver our holistic model of care. 

When people are diagnosed with cancer, it comes with a whirlwind of emotions. Sometimes, feelings can get bottled up or pushed aside. We know from experience that facing a future of uncertainties is difficult. 

Harry sits with our patients and encourages them to write about their feelings. Then using his experience, enthusiasm and music therapy clinical skills, he helps them bring their song to life. Although many patients begin this process with apprehension, it is a therapeutic way to acknowledge and express their emotions. 

Toby, a patient at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, is all too familiar with experiencing a tsunami of emotions. He was diagnosed with neck and mouth cancer in 2021. For treatment, he underwent invasive surgery to remove the tumours. The procedure left him unable to talk.    

“I first met Harry after my surgery. He came in and played a song for me. Later, we wrote a song together. It was really special.” - Toby.

Last year, the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse choir had the opportunity to perform on Australia’s Got Talent. Knowing the power of music in health and healing, the choir chose to share a taste of it with Australia on broadcast television. Their weekly practices paid off!   

“It was great! A lot of hard work, but it meant so much to everyone.” - Toby.  

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse was granted special permission by the Beatles estate to perform the song “Let it Be.” After their moving performance, the choir received a standing ovation and four heartwarming yese’s from the panel of judges. Gail O’Brien, a patient, and her daughter spoke on behalf of the choir, sharing their message of hope.  

The choir participants and the Music Therapy team dedicated their performance to their fellow singer and friend, Paul, an enthusiastic choir member. He sadly passed away not long after the performance but before the show aired on national TV.  

Carola, Paul’s wife, still enjoys coming to the choir to embrace the community that she and Paul loved being a part of. Listening to her friends sing the songs that used to bring her husband so much happiness is not always easy. But she knows Paul would have been enjoying himself, belting out the songs.   

“Paul didn't want to miss the choir. It gave him a lot of joy. He looked forward to every Thursday and would feel very upset if he couldn't be there.”  - Paul’s wife.    

If you want to support holistic services like our Music Therapy program, you can donate