Being musical is a wonderful thing. If only I sang like Aretha Franklin, not a scalded cat – Susan Dalgety

I couldn’t resist a wry smile when I read that Morningside School of Music is encouraging older folk to take up a musical instrument.

By Susan Dalgety
Monday, 27th September 2021, 12:30 pm
Aretha Franklin's beautiful singing is an inspiration (Picture: Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Aretha Franklin's beautiful singing is an inspiration (Picture: Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

I fall into the category of “older”, but I am as musical as a scalded cat. I still blush when I recall my embarrassment at being banned from joining the rest of the girls in my class at the local music festival. “Even your miming is out of tune,” the choir master told me, much to everyone else’s amusement.

Unlike a good red wine, my pitch hasn’t improved as I have matured. I sing off-key. I can’t whistle, and I dance like a scalded cat too, an arthritic one at that. And I have never shown the least inclination to learn a musical instrument, unlike my youngest granddaughter, who has just started piano lessons, and delights in every note.

But I do love music. I still get a thrill when taking an album out of its sleeve and dropping the needle onto the first track. I am constantly amazed that I can click on an Aretha Franklin track on my phone and her flawless voice will emerge from a speaker in another room.

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Music school appeals to retired Scots to take up instruments

And I miss live performances. I cried when I heard a (bad) Elvis impersonator sing in a pub garden earlier this year. His Suspicious Minds was excruciating, but his voice crackling through the sunshine was a glorious sign that we were emerging from pandemic.

Studies show that playing a musical instrument can help ward off dementia as it changes brain activity, in a good way. And it improves listening and hearing skills.

It works with younger folk too. Research into the impact of Sistema Scotland, a musical charity that works with vulnerable children, shows that its programme helps build a sense of belonging as well as boosting academic performance.

I doubt if my attempts at banging a drum or scraping a fiddle would help me much, and it would definitely drive my long-suffering husband bonkers, so I won’t be taking up a musical instrument any time soon, if ever.

But as long as I can, I will keep on dancing round my living room, screeching along to the soulful sounds of Aretha. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

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