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Music is a healing force at the hospital

Dr. Thomas Michel (playing the accordion) and The Cardiotonics sing a Christmas carol to Susan Martillotta in her hospital room at Brigham and Women's.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Thank you for Naomi Martin’s heartwarming feature in Thursday’s paper (“Medicinal music: Brigham and Women’s staff serenade patients hospitalized on the holiday,” Metro). The healing power of music is not to be underestimated. The article brought to mind my own experience in a hospital at Christmastime, years ago, in New York City. I was part of a group from the Blue Hill Troupe, an amateur theatrical company, which sang in hospital wards at that time of year.

We came upon a room with a bedridden elderly woman who was wailing, clearly in pain, and otherwise oblivious to the world. At her bedside sat a younger woman, distraught and looking helpless. We started to pass by, not wishing to intrude, but the younger woman waved to us to sing.


Standing in the doorway, we began “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” As soon as we started, the woman’s moaning stopped. As I recall, we sang two or three verses, the bedridden woman silent the entire time. Shortly after we stopped, she began to wail again.

The younger woman came around from the bedside to thank us, tears in her eyes. She explained that her mother was from Germany, that she no doubt had recognized the tune from her native country, and that it had given her a few precious moments of relief.

We went on to sing to other patients, now tears in our eyes. As the article shows, the doctors and staff at the Brigham are bringing similar relief to their many patients, providing a very different kind of healing.

Douglas Eisenhart