Our Dementia Choir at Christmas With Vicky McClure

Rating 7.8
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 30 mins

Two years ago, after witnessing how music soothed her Nonna Iris, Alex Rider’s Vicky McClure set to on a mission to bring dementia patients together, via the wonders of singing.

Over the series, McClure met with dementia patients of various ages and at differing stages, inviting them to join her choir, hoping to help them make friends and find some comfort through the joys of choral singing. In this half-hour special, McClure tours the country, catching up with the choir, and finding out how they’ve got on in this challenging year.

The difficulties of 2020 have had a huge impact on us all, testing our spirits and our abilities to face adversity. And this is especially true for those with dementia – McClure quotes the statistic that of those who have sadly passed from Coronavirus, a quarter were battling the disease. She explores the cruel consequences of the lockdowns and Covid crisis, which has caused an acceleration of the deterioration in some of the choir members – 84-year-old Betty thought she was being held prisoner by her granddaughter, whilst 54-year-old Mick’s dementia progression was quickened by a third. 

The Line of Duty star is a wonderful presenter – warm, genuine and empathetic to these stories of struggles – which is particularly impressive when adhering to social distancing, unable to hug these people, or bring them together when they so desperately need it. And whilst the tales told are often touching, McClure moves through them with grace, not dwelling on them or becoming sentimental.

However, the programme is also host to joyful moments. We catch up with June, who has been learning the ukulele, and Mick gets his wish to sing on stage one last time. The most touching moment, however, comes at the end, where the programme is dedicated to Mary, Maureen and Bernard, who have sadly passed away – make sure you’ve got tissues to hand.

The Telegraph’s Michael Hogan puts it simply, calling it “uplifting TV with a positive message,” which “showed just how much Covid-19 had taken away.” Lucy Mangan in The Guardian admires the special’s honesty, saying “it lets the endurance of love, the capriciousness and cruelty of fate, the flashes of hope and despair journey past us in turn.” The Times’ Carol Midgely agrees that the show was “simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking,” and praised McClure’s “energy and positivity,” calling her a “can-do person with a good heart.”

First shown December 2020.

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