The Story of Philip Glass and Sunbeams
The following newspaper extract tells the story of how the music of Philip Glass healed a girl being taught by Annie Mawson and inspired Annie to set up Sunbeams Music Trust and to seek out Philip Glass as a patron.
Article by Susan Bennett
FINDING THE RIGHT KEY
“I felt like I was standing on ‘perceptive tiptoe’, trying to detect what is on the brink of being called into existence for the very first time.” Annie Mawson is the Founder and Chief Executive of Sunbeams Trust, an organisation set up in 1992 to promote the healing power of music. An accomplished musician who plays piano, guitar and harp, she was talking about the remarkable effect music can have on children with special needs.
“It all began about seven years ago when I taught at a special school in Kendal, Cumbria. I was playing Songs from Liquid Days by Philip Glass. I noticed one of the girls, Lucy, was swaying to the music and seemed to be in a reverie of her own. Lucy was at that time totally illiterate, innumerate, incontinent and displayed very bizarre and anti-social behaviour, often in the form of a daily screaming temper tantrum. Her language development was very poor. For example, when she spoke, her words were disconnected, like, ‘Me -swimming – Kendal-.’ So I was amazed at Lucy’s reply when I asked her what the music was making her think about.”
“I like the singing, it reminds me of people running. Two boys are running, a long time ago – one black, one white – to a round circle made of stone, with a fire inside. The flames go so nearly to the sky. The boys look at the fire for a long time. A crowd comes and they watch the fire and when they’ve gone, the two boys stay until the fire goes out. I remember a long time ago, there was music in my head and I was dancing to it and it’s my favourite tune, just like that music.”
“The next day I typed what Lucy had said onto the computer and she read it beautifully. Her tantrums ceased and her double incontinence stopped. Her reading age rose dramatically from No Score to 7.9 in three months. In fact, she totally blossomed.”
Annie then realised that music had the power to unlock the strongest of defence mechanisms. She put her theories into practice and has since witnessed some extremely moving transformations.
“In 1994 Annie took her troupe of special needs girls: the Dancing Drum (a play on words Downs Syndrome) to the Philip Glass performance – Belle et le Bête at the Royal Festival Hall.
Annie and her girls had the good fortune of meeting the famous American Composer. He was captivated by the story and agreed to be a Musical Patron of Sunbeams, appearing with them in an ITV documentary, “The Secret Heart”, looking at Annie’s work with “the power of music to heal.”