WIN-WIN: EBOP-aleles leading member John Baker says the group tailors the music for the residents and includes lots of old favourites that they know and love. Photo Troy Baker D8772-03

WITH a name as catchy as the music they play, ukulele group, EBOP-aleles, is warming the hearts of residents in retirement and care units in the

Eastern Bay, including residents in Ohope Beach Care’s dementia unit for whom the music rekindles memories otherwise forgotten.

Diversional therapist at the centre, Missy Foulkes, says residents can’t get enough of the lively group, who she says, “bring so much happiness” to the residents through their performances.

“Music is the best therapy for people with dementia and when it’s music that they’ve known and loved, it takes them back to happy times associated with it.

“You see the spark in their eye, the happiness in their face.” And she says the EBOP-aleles certainly know how to bring it.

“They have a gift, they really do,” Missy says. “They’re very intuitive and interactive, they get the residents singing and dancing and while they are here, everyone is just right in that moment. And that moment is a happy place. I beg them to come more often,” she smiles.

The popular ukulele group was first established nearly five years ago and has since performed widely, featuring at events such Christmas in the Park, Jazz in the Park and other public events, as well as performing at weddings, birthdays and private functions. But the group has also been long committed to providing regular performances for the two rest homes in Whakatane, as well as Ohope Beach Care. For more than three years now, they’ve been performing once a month at each of them.

“It’s a win-win situation for us,” says one of EBOP-aleles leading members, John Baker. “We love performing for the oldies just as much as they enjoy it. We really enjoy it and tailor the music for them and include lots of the old favourites that they know and love. It’s an honour to play for them.”

But perhaps nowhere are the rewards so great, he says, nor the effect of the music so evident, than at the group’s performances at the dementia unit in Ohope Beach Care.

“It’s quite incredible really,” John says. “People in the unit are often not conversing anymore but once we start playing to them, it’s like they come back to life.” It’s a response he says they see frequently.

Citing an example, he tells of seeing a resident in the unit, a woman he’d once known well.

“I went to speak to her, but she didn’t remember me at all. She was gone, no-one at home, she wasn’t conversing at all.”

But he says as the ukulele group began to perform, he watched as the woman began to sing and continued to do so throughout performance, remembering all of the lyrics of her old favourites clearly.

“It was astonishing,” says John. “Though when I went back to her afterwards, she’d returned to former state. She was only responsive during the music.”

The daughter of one of the residents in the dementia unit also tells of the impact the group’s music has on her mother.

“It’s remarkable,” says Robin McGlashen, who joins her mother singing during the performances. “During the hour that the group perform, it’s as though I have my mother back for a short period. She loves the music just as she always did, and she sings beautifully in tune, even coming in with harmonies sometimes. It’s as though in that hour, the dementia is on hold, she is mum again, she is happy.”

“It’s the most effective therapy for her, for all people suffering from dementia,” Robin says.

“Scientists know that key brain areas linked to music memory are relatively undamaged by the disease. When familiar tunes are played, the music becomes like an anchor grounding the patient back in reality.”

“I wish EBOP-aleles could play at the unit every day. They are the most incredible group of people and they give their time so generously.”

John says the feedback from family members or caregivers of people is always similar; those in the unit come to life during the music sessions, and are often more settled afterwards, too.

“It’s very rewarding to perform in those situations,” he says. “It’s wonderful to see the response, and as for us, well, it leaves us with a good feeling, too. I like to think that I’m helping in some way. And hey, we all love to play, and it’s giving something to people that costs nothing, except a bit of time.”

John says the group is one of several that regularly visit the rest homes. “There are others and I think they’re all good. Music is very popular with the residents so most of them will come along and you get to know some of them over time.”

EBOP-aleles began in Whakatane in 2014. “There were a few smaller groups already meeting before then, but that’s when we officially got together and named ourselves,” says John. With up to 50 members, it is a sub-group of around 15 people that form EBOP-aleles performance group. “We’re just a group of people who love playing the ukulele,” John says, humbly omitting that there is also a fair degree of talent accumulated across EBOP-aleles members.

“We’re not an official group with an official membership or anything like that. We’re just a collection of all types of people, mostly retired, or semi-retired who all love music.”

The performance group also travels to other regions, performing at arts festivals or competing at regional events, and occasionally, John says, setting off on a road trip, too.

And like everything else about the EBOP-aleles, the road trips are clearly a whole lot of fun.
People wanting further information can contact Juliet Stone, 021 101 7106.


ANYONE looking for a chance to see the EBOP-aleles in action can attend a concert the group is giving at 2pm on Saturday, September 14 at the Whakatane Intermediate School auditorium.

John says the performance is being held as a fundraiser for the Life Education Trust, and to provide the group with an opportunity to share their love of music with the public.

Tickets will be available later this month at Radio 1XX and at the Whakatane Beacon at Pyne St. Door sales will also be available. Tickets will be $5, or $10 for a family.

“Don’t come along expecting a highly professional show,” says John. “We’re not the Great Britain Ukulele Group. We’re sweeping the floor in comparison,” he laughs. “But we’re the EBOP-aleles and we love what do and we’re sure that you will too.”

Also performing will be Highly Strung, a Tauranga-based acoustic group who play ukuleles, guitars, and a banjolele.