When Hannah Reid asks “Shall we do Tulips From Amsterdam?” the answer comes in murmurs and nods. Yes – we shall.

Hannah plays her keyboards and begins to sing. “When it’s spring again I’ll bring again...”

The seated circle comes to life, its hands opening like flowers. “If you don’t know some words, just make them up,” says Hannah. “That’s what I do!”

Most here do know the words, which is surprising, even with such a famous song. Surprising because this is an Alzheimer’s Society session.

How people can forget family members’ faces but remember lyrics is one of the puzzles which researchers are striving to solve.

Hannah, a youthful 52-year-old, takes weekly Singing for the Brain sessions for the Alzheimer’s Society in Carlisle and Egremont.

Life as a freelance music teacher also sees her working in schools, hospitals and with a choir.

Her sessions with dementia patients strike a bitter-sweet chord. Hannah’s mother, Jo, spent the last 10 years of her life with Alzheimer’s. Jo used to come to these sessions. She died last year.

Hannah introduces the next song: She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain. Tambourines, castanets and triangles are among the instruments played by those who are here with carers and Alzheimer’s Society volunteers. Feet tapping on the wooden floor provide further accompaniment. Lost in music. Or maybe found in it.

The session eases towards its conclusion. Instruments are handed back. The group winds down with a gentle rendition of Oh My Darling, Clementine.

Hannah says: “I’ll see you next time – whether you like it or not!”

“Will you remember?” asks a man with dementia, smiling and, for now, lucid.

Gill Hodgson is here with her husband Ray. Gill is among the countless army who have taken on the role of caring for a loved one with dementia. “It’s really for the carers,” she says of Singing for the Brain. “It’s a little break. It’s very relaxing.”

Her husband, she says, is better known as ‘Smiler’. “I knew him for six months before I knew what his proper name was. That was 60 years ago.”

Around the world so many people are disappearing while loved ones can only watch, wonder and care.

The singers have departed by the time Hannah takes a seat and describes how she approaches these sessions.

Hannah Reid “It’s finding the balance between being professional and empathetic,” she says. “If I got sucked into what it must be like to have dementia, I wouldn’t keep my cheery face on.

“Mum used to come here with Dad. I had to put my professional hat on. It was a little bit hard emotionally but you can’t let that stop you being there for everybody in the group.”

Jo Reid worked as a secretary either side of bringing up her four children. Towards the end she did not always recognise them.

“Mum was good at blagging it if she didn’t know who I was. The majority of times she would know. Sometimes if I would say ‘It’s Hannah – your daughter’, she’d think of Hannah as a seven-year-old rather than now.”

Hannah has run Singing for the Brain sessions in Carlisle – at New Waterton Hall on Warwick Square – since 2013 and in Egremont since 2015. Did she start doing them because of her mother’s condition?

“No, I fell into it just through being a musician. But subconsciously maybe I was thinking ‘That’s a good way of giving out to people.’ You can feel helpless.”

Jo used to come here with her husband, Colin. “Dad cared for her. We did ‘tag team’ but Dad did the bulk of it. In the end she had to go into a care home, partly for Dad’s sake. She got pneumonia in the end. In a way it was a relief.

“How crap it must be to have the last few years of your life feeling bad. It’s so unfair that it destroys what’s going on in your mind. I don’t have any scientific knowledge of Alzheimer’s. But it does help in these sessions, having spent time with someone.”

Hannah mentions a former school teacher who comes to the Carlisle sessions. He can still speak French. When much else has died language lives on, in speech and in song.

“They won’t remember normal banter because it’s surface. It’s too recent. If you ask him ‘Did you have a favourite class at school?’ he’d tell you. Music too. It’s really cool when people can reel off whole songs.

“You learn songs from the past to share with them. People think you do really old songs with people who have Alzheimer’s. At the Egremont group there are people in their early 60s. They like The Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry. People 10 or more years older like Vera Lynn. I’d need Stevie Wonder.”

Hannah Reid She says there’s a feel-good factor about Singing for the Brain. “I haven’t seen carers be upset here, maybe because it’s time off. If you’ve got a good thing to look forward to every week it helps. We just have banter.

“In the Egremont group they themselves would say ‘We can’t sing, Hannah.’ But there’s always half an hour before they sing. They can talk in a relaxed setting.”

For Hannah, musical journeys are more important than destinations. This is about creating feelings rather than polished performances.

She has worked with music most of her life, from classical training and an apprenticeship in piano restoration to enhancing the lives of her wide range of clients.

These include pupils at Victoria Infant School in Workington and Netherton Infant School in Maryport. She enjoys working with children because “they have the same sense of humour as me! They’re just lovely. Children’s imaginations, being able to be creative. We do music and pretend. It’s an excuse to play.”

At other times she’s in Aspatria leading Singing for Wellbeing sessions for Age UK, open to any older person who wants a casual sing.

The Cumberland Infirmary and Whitehaven Hospital are among Hannah’s other workplaces. “That’s just a relaxed sing with people who want to listen. Some who are in rehab can join in if they’re getting stronger.”

Such a diverse range of people, all of whom need to be drawn in if music is to work its spell.

“I think I’m a people person. I can relate to lots of different people. With children, their attention span is very short. You’re keeping it active and energetic. With older people, you can have too much of a plan. Somebody might want to chat about an old song. That’s more important than thinking ‘It’s not sticking to the plan!’ It’s having the experience to read the room.”

For the past six years Hannah has also led a community choir called Giocoso in her hometown of Wigton.

“Giocoso is Italian for ‘cheeky and cheerful’. It’s not auditioned. We sing at little local festivals. We’ve got from ages 30 to 87 – that’s Dad. There are accountants, teachers, people working in the NHS and computing.”

She says choir members “need confidence to find freedom in their voice. Sometimes they’re over-confident – you have to tell them to shut up!”

Such playfulness is apparent in Hannah’s classes and her conversation. There’s a self-mocking humour, such as when she describes her prowess in piano restoration. “I can take a piano to pieces and put it back together, with only a few spare screws.”

A fellow teacher once pointed out “You don’t have to be serious to be serious.”

And behind the banter Hannah is serious about music. “I don’t know what else I’d do,” she says. “I give a lot of myself to what I do.”

To contact Hannah email hanpants@googlemail.com

To contact the Carlisle branch of the Alzheimer’s Society email carlisleoffice@alzheimers.org.uk or call 01228 819299