How do GPs stay connected during lockdown?

Doug Hendrie

1/05/2020 2:32:35 PM

Losing his orchestra was one thing, but seeing his musician friends in limbo drove Dr Tim Senior to try something new – commission new music.

Dr Tim Senior
Dr Tim Senior with his beloved viola at the Southern Highlands Symphony Orchestra.

Ever since he was a teenager, Dr Tim Senior has played the viola in orchestras.
Music has always been a pleasure – and a welcome solace in difficult times.
Whether playing, listening at home, or going to concerts, music was always there, a counterpoint to the stresses of life as a GP.
Until, suddenly, it wasn’t.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began and Australia went into lockdown, the three orchestras in which Dr Senior plays around the southern highlands of NSW had their performances cancelled or postponed.
‘While this was bad for me, my musician friends suddenly lost all their work for the foreseeable future,’ he told newsGP.
Casting around for a way to help, Dr Senior came across a heartfelt plea to support musicians by Andrew Ford, a composer and the presenter of The Music Show on ABC Radio National.
‘Andrew had written and conducted a piece for my orchestra last year, so I thought I’d try something completely new and commission a solo viola piece from him to work on during my own social isolation,’ Dr Senior said.
On the phone to Mr Ford, Dr Senior listed several pieces he liked, including Benjamin Britten’s Lachrymae.
As Mr Ford recalls in Inside Story, the piece took him a little over a week to write.
‘As with any piece that’s going well, it threw up some surprises along the way,’ he wrote.
‘Tim had requested two to three minutes of music and, I think, imagined the piece to be elegiac in tone. That’s what I expected, too, and certainly that’s the vein in which the music sets out.
‘Before long, however, it was straining at the leash. Every time I pulled the piece back into line, it tugged more vigorously. In the end, the struggle between what I wanted to do and what the music wanted to do became a defining feature of the piece, which turned out to be about three times longer than Tim had asked for.’
When he first commissioned the piece, Dr Senior fully expected he would be exposed to the coronavirus and have to be quarantined for two weeks.
That has luckily not happened.
But Dr Senior has found himself with more spare time than usual on evenings and weekends – time he has poured into learning Mr Ford’s piece, called In My Solitude.
‘It’s based on a beautiful old song by Henry Purcell called In Solitude,’ Dr Senior explained.
‘It’s been helpful having a project to work on, where I can see progress, and I hope to record it and put it up online.
‘It’s meant, as well, that my own music playing hasn’t completely stopped, and I’ve been able to help a sector who have lost much more than we have in healthcare.
‘Hopefully it can be an example to show that we can help others get through, especially in the arts, in whatever it is we are passionate about.’
For GPs, Dr Senior recommends finding a creative outlet as a way to boost wellbeing.
While none of his patients have had COVID-19, mental health issues and pandemic anxieties are everywhere, as are complex chronic disease. 
‘Having a project to work on has been really helpful, as has staying in touch with people electronically,’ he said.
‘It’s been really noticeable how much people have turned to the arts at this time, with some very creative responses shared over social media. There have been some wonderful amateur and professional online music performances.
‘The Getty Museum challenge, where people have recreated famous artworks in their home, has been a highlight, or even people dressing up to take their bins out.
‘It’s that sense of making the best of things that we can’t control that I think helps people get through, especially having some fun at the time.’
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Dr Timothy Senior   4/05/2020 5:50:49 PM

For anyone interested in hearing the piece, I've recorded it on YouTube:

Dr Julia Menzies   5/05/2020 8:59:41 PM

Thank you for sharing, Tim - a beautiful recording of an evocative piece of music.