Music can heal the soul. For the last 19 years, The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte has been sponsoring “First Friday in the Chapel,” a concert held on the first Friday of every month in the La Porte Hospital Family Chapel, catering to the patients and eager attendees alike.
This month’s concert featured Sheila and Bob Thompson of the Rusty Strings, a folk singing duo who sang great gospel music in a style hearkening back to the Civil War. They’re a multifaceted group, featuring instruments such as the hammered dulcimer, banjo and mandolin.
Sheila, who has performed for First Friday at the Chapel before, is no stranger to performing for patients. She used to work as a surgery scheduler in a physician’s office, which familiarized her with the hospital. From there, she began volunteering to play her dulcimer outside the patients’ rooms for both the patients and the staff.
“I know that it brings them joy and takes their minds off of their pain and their troubles,” Sheila said, “and it just shows that someone cares.”
The patients aren’t the only ones who enjoy the music. “So many times I’ll just be playing in the hallway near one of the nurses’ stations, and they’ll come by and say ‘Oh, thank you so much, I needed that today.’”
Today, Sheila is training to receive her certification to be a “certified music practitioner,” something that will allow her to be more effective in providing comfort and care to hospice patients, Alzheimer’s patients and skilled nursing patients. “It’s been scientifically proven, the benefits of music in the healing process,” she said.
Mike Gillock, the First Friday in the Chapel coordinator with the Healthcare Foundation is the man who makes every concert, which can include anything from organ music, guitar, and even choir performances from La Porte High School, all possible.
“It’s just different people within the community who are willing to share their music to enrich peoples’ lives,” Gillock said, “That’s why First Friday exists.”
The music isn’t always gospel. “Sometimes it’s all secular, sometimes it’s sacred, sometimes it’s a combination of the two,” Gillock said of the types of music played for the event, “It’s whatever the performer or performers would like to do.”
The event has become a monthly ritual to attend for many locals, such as Ron and Norma Lewis, who have been attending First Fridays every month they can. “We’ve gone for at least a couple years now,” said Ron with Norma adding “We go every month we’re in town.”
This music means a lot to the attendees. “I enjoy the talent that La Porte has, and the surrounding area,” said Norma. “We’ve heard some really neat people come here, and there’s a lot more talent than a lot of people realize around in this area.”
The Lewis Family have become connoisseurs of La Porte musical culture, with Norma noting that they have seen many different groups from around the area.
While the concerts themselves are held in the chapel, each performance is broadcast throughout the hospital for the patients, allowing those who cannot attend the show to still enjoy it. Reverend Ray Francis, Director of Spiritual Care for La Porte Hospital, is overjoyed to have the First Friday performances for the patients.
“The intent is that this be a place where the community can come and hear the good music that lives in our community,” Rev. Francis said, “The Hospital really supports what goes on here knowing that music is a part of spirituality and that helps people get connected to the deep parts of our memories; that really helps bring goodness and wholeness to who we are.”
For more information on the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, Please visit http://hflaporte.org/