It’s not quite what you’re used to seeing at a cancer centre — a pianist and an opera singer, belting out classical music in the middle of the day.
Every Tuesday at noon, different musicians perform at the Cedars Cancer Centre, located at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).
“It’s a program that we started about almost three years ago, right before the pandemic hit,” said Patil Harboyan, Cedars Healing Notes founder and musician. “The idea is to lighten the mood a little bit in the (Cedar) Cancer Centre, where it’s often very quite, very sombre.”
The program came to be after Harboyan accompanied a family member to the centre and thought a piano could spruce up the place.
With the help of the Cedars Cancer Foundation and others, a baby grand piano was installed on the first floor, and later the idea of one-hour concerts was born.
“They’re here in the cancer centre, it’s not always easy,” said Dr. Tarek Hijal, MUHC radiation oncology department director. “They have treatments, they have their disease on their minds. So to be able to give them an hour where they can take their mind off of their current stress and to be in another place, enjoying the music is very restful for them, very anxiety reducing.”
The tunes are helpful not only for patients, but also for family members and even health-care professionals at the centre.
Many say the concerts provide a moment of pause or distraction.
“I’ve just come from seeing the oncologist, we’ve arranged different treatment, different medication,” said Wayne Boone, a cancer patient. “This was a wonderful finish to that day because I did not know this was going on.”
The music varies from week to week, from jazz to popular or classical music.
Once a month, professional musicians take centre stage, but other times students from McGill’s Schulich School of Music perform.
“We know that patients often spend a fair amount of time in this cancer centre and it could be long,” said Chantal Le Blanc, an oncology social worker at the MUHC. “So I think having a moment of music is a gift.”