CD hits the right key for recovering addicts at Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre

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Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Community, News
A unique project has helped people in a Newry rehab centre battle their addiction by singing – and now the group are releasing their own CD on 10th May.

Singers with Sheila Smyth

The 80 men and women in treatment at Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre partnered with Sheila Smyth from The Right Key to produce the CD called Fresh Start. The Right Key is an organisation empowering people with a musical voice and promoting singing for health and recovery. Speaking to Newry Times, Sheila said, “We have seen how music can make a breaking point, into a turning point. People are here in Cuan Mhuire because they want help with addiction to alcohol and drugs. “An important part of recovery is improving peoples’ image of themselves. They need to know that they have value as an individual, and that they have a purpose. The singers came together to sing, but there was more to it than that. “They stood together, with a common problem – addiction. Trust was built, and because of this, people felt safe to try new things, like singing a solo, or sharing a story. It is like soldiers together in a war, these are the survivors, and they genuinely care for each other,” she said. Sheila, who plays piano and guitar, is also a songwriter and composer. She set up “The Right Key in 2012 as a Community Interest Company with the aim of empowering people through music. This includes the formation of an Alzheimer’s Choir, for those who suffer from dementia, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society. She is currently forming a singing group with woman in a divided area of Belfast who wish to build cross community relations. She says that her work in Cuan Mhuire has been truly inspirational and it will continue. The residents raised the funds to produce the CD by selling concert tickets to family and friends. More than 400 people attended the event, which was a deeply moving experience for everyone. The proceeds from the CD, will go back into the work of Cuan Mhuire, to help others recovering from addiction. The group spent eight weeks, singing together, traditional and newly composed songs. One song is titled, “I don’t need no dope, to help me cope”, a statement from the singers, as they move forward in their journey to recovery. The men sang a beautiful version of the old traditional hymn, “Be thou my vision”. Another song – “I will stand beside you” – has been posted on You-Tube, in dedication to the people of Boston, in the wake of the bombings there. “Cuan Mhuire have links with the city of Boston, so it seemed like a natural fit. The lyrics are really fitting, and we wanted the people there to know that we understand their pain, and that we want to support them,” she added. The Voice of the Bann traditional musicians, who play on the Cuan Mhuire CD, and who accompanied the group at the concert, add a beautiful Irish feel to the song, and to all the other pieces, giving the CD a depth, that would have been impossible without them. The participants felt the whole experience of singing, working together, producing a CD and performing in the concert, was life changing. Jim Clarke a resident at Cuan Mhuire said, “The singing and music became a part of our everyday activity while on the programme. We would practice together and sing every day. “It was like an awakening of something in our lives that had gone to sleep. Something was switched on again, like a light switch, and we were lit! It has been the best therapy I have ever known, and amazing fun.” Another resident Mavis Scott said, “There is no mood altering substance that can ever make you feel the way we did after the concert and while making this CD. It helped in my recovery, there were moments when we laughed and cried together, but those moments became part of our healing process. “I am now back home, having finished the programme, and life is better than it has been for a long time. I look forward to going back each Wednesday for aftercare, and to continue singing. It helps me stay strong.” The public is welcome to the launch of the new CD “Fresh Start” at Cuan Mhuire Newry Centre, 200 Dublin Road, on 10th May, at 7.30pm. For more information of The Right Key, please contact Sheila Smyth on 07949418408 or 028 92 603342. E mail
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