Every week, you will find retired teacher Don Bull volunteering his time playing the piano at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) for staff, patients, visitors and volunteers to enjoy.
A self-taught piano player, Don says he grew up with the instrument in his family as his grandmother was a beautiful piano player.
“I wasn’t really interested in having lessons, but in 1970 at 14 years old, I bought the sheet music of Close to You by the Carpenters and taught myself how to play. I still play that song today – even at the RAH,” Don said.
Don performs every Thursday and said the piano is a wonderful instrument to play that helps people to relax.
The beautiful Yamaha piano was generously gifted to the hospital for the enjoyment of patients, visitors and staff by David John Pope who died in 2017.
“People have told me they’ve been stressed out and the music helps to calm them when I play. Most of them also thank me which is quite lovely,” Don said.
“Some people come over and quietly sing along, others are pleasantly surprised to find live music in hospital rather than elevator music. One patient told me she liked having some ‘pre-scan music therapy’ as it gives her a big boost before her regular sessions.
“Very often a piece of music brings back wonderful, sometimes forgotten memories for people which takes them to a happy place – and being in a hospital many people need that break.”
Don says he can play around 250 songs and he sometimes gets music requests ranging from The Beatles and even songs from popular movies.
“There is no one song that is repeatedly requested but I do play a lot of movie music, which is great because it covers music from the 1930s right through to recent movies like The Greatest Showman, La La Land and A Star is Born,” Don said.
“A lot of people also love to hear Elton John’s Your Song, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables, or the theme song from Love Actually; New York New York always gets people tapping their feet.
“The oldest song I love to play is probably Jerome Kern’s 1936 piece The Way You Look Tonight which seems to appeal to both old and young listeners.”
Don enjoys his time at the RAH, and he knows the value having live music in a hospital setting where often people are hearing bad news, dealing with trauma and even loss.
“I love being able to share my repertoire with such a diverse group of people that use the hospital each day for a number of reasons, some of these can be heartbreaking situations. I consider it a great privilege and I’ve also enjoyed getting to know some of the staff and the volunteers.”
If you’re a passionate piano player and would like to volunteer to play at the RAH, get in touch with us at [email protected] today!