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Music may be the food of love, but it’s tastier when you can see it.

A couples shared love of music

It’s no secret that at Allegro Optical we love music, it’s a huge part of who we are. Music and Optics are our two great passions, and we love meeting people who share our passion. That’s why we take such pleasure in helping fellow musicians. We love to help musicians from all walks of life to continue doing what they love. Making music!

Making music is a wonderful thing and something that many musical couples love to share. Michael and Susan Brown are no exception to this. The couple are retired teachers and both of them play the piano. The couple began making music together when they met at university. It’s a pastime they have thoroughly enjoyed ever since. However recently the pair have both noticed some difficulty when seeing the music on the stand.

Michael and Susan made the trip from Wales to visit Allegro Optical in Meltham. The couple heard about our specialism in musicians eyecare from a friend. Michael and Susan are both experienced varifocal wearers, but while they were fine for everyday visual tasks, they didn’t provide a good enough field of view for playing. Following comprehensive eye examinations, the couple were both dispensed with a pair of varifocals. We also dispensed an additional pair of spectacles for music making.

Mike and Sue Brown Retired Music Teachers buy their glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician helping you see the music and more

Finding a solution is our forte

For Susan, we created a completely individual lens design to enable her to see her music clearly while still being able to see a conductor as she often performs on stage and in recitals. The new lens design took into account the position of Susan’s music stands, her seating position and her need to see a conductor in various positions due to changing venues. The new lens design gives Susan a clear view of performance distances, without any of the distortion experienced in varifocals or occupational lenses.  

Michael also wears varifocals, although he prefers not to use them for music making. Having had some neck problems in the past Brian prefered to use single vision lenses when playing. However, that meant that he always had to sit in exactly the same position. Not great for someone with postural problems. When the couple were both playing at one piano this resulted in blurring of the music for Michael which he found upsetting. Just like Susan, we found the perfect prescription for Michaels working distances and Sheryl created a completely individual lens design to enable him to see his music wherever he sits.

The music is crystal clear

The couple collected their new glasses a couple of weeks later and were delighted with the results. They said; 

Michael and I are delighted with our new glasses and agree that they are so much better than anything either of us has had before. Nigel wasn’t wrong when he said Allegro Optical is unique, the whole experience has been most enjoyable. It has been so refreshing to finally meet an optician who really does understand what we need. Michael’s neck pain has almost gone and I can see the conductors again while still seeing the music. The new glasses are definitely better than my old glasses. Thank you for all your help.”

Mike and Sue Brown Retired Music Teachers buy their glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician helping you see the music and more

Why Allegro?

Focusing at many different distances can pose real problems to musicians. Many struggle with the varying focal distances required. Like Brian, many musicians suffer from postural problems which impede their music-making.  With an understanding of the playing and seating positions of musicians, these difficulties can be overcome. Musicians working and playing life can easily be extended thanks to the improvement our optical solutions provide.

Many Musicians who experience focusing problems at different distances are unaware that there is a solution to the problem.  Many optometrists and opticians either prescribe and dispense standard single vision lenses for the music stand or occupational lenses which often exacerbate the problem, due to the limited depth of field they provide.

Allegro Optical work closely with a Yorkshire based optical laboratory, creating a unique optical solution for musicians, right here in the North of England. If you are a musician who is struggling to see the music give Allegro Optical a call on Greenfield, Saddleworth 01457 353100 or Meltham, Holmfirth 01484 907090

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The Federation of Small Businesses recognise Stephen’s incredible journey to recovery

Stephen’s spec-tacular recovery merits special adversity award

Some of our readers may be aware that we recently picked up another award. This time it was the Chairman’s Special Award during the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards at Battersea Evolution in London in May. The award was given to a business that has faced and overcome major difficulties. Allegro Optical’s Managing Director Stephen Tighe, who co-founded the business with partner Sheryl Doe, fell seriously ill in 2017. Just months after opening the practice in Meltham and was hospitalised for almost three months and spent another month in convalescence care. Stephen Tighe of Allegro Optical the musicians optician in ICU August 2017 Despite musician Stephen’s life support machine being switched off twice. Also having suffered two pretty major heart attacks, he beat the odds and recovered. Amazingly Stephen returned to work full-time just ten months later and was conducting Kippax band just 12 months after leaving intensive care. Stephen and Kippax band went on to win the Yorkshire area finals in March this year. Stephen’s illness meant Sheryl, managing director and dispensing optician, had to run and grow the business on her own. She managed to keep the opticians open six days per week, despite daily hospital visits.

Helping Musicians to see the music

Allegro Optical works with The Royal Northern College of Music, The Halle Orchestra and Huddersfield Philharmonic. The team help musicians who struggle to focus on printed music and written notation due to a variety of eye conditions. Known as the ‘musician’s optician’, they are the first and only opticians to become registered British Association of Performing Arts Medicine practitioners. Sheryl’s pioneering work has been recognised within the industry when she won the Opticians Awards Dispensing Optician of the Year at the Industry’s national awards evening in Birmingham in March.     Allegro Optical Opticians winners of the FSB chairmans Awards Saddleworth and Holmfirt

Having started with just the two directors Allegro Optical now employs 14 people. We work with musicians from all over the country and many from abroad. Our clients include those from major international ensembles including English National Ballet Philharmonic and Dublin RTE Concert Orchestra.  Musicians from Championship section Brass bands including Brighouse and Rastrick Band and The Cory Band. Sheryl Doe BSc FBDO Dispensing Optician of the Year 2019 with Optician Award 2019

A word from the Chairman

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said“This is an incredible story of a family business defeating the odds, not only managing to continue and grow their company but overcoming adversity in terms of Stephen’s health too. The whole team, led by Sheryl and Stephen have pulled together to make sure Allegro Optical is a success, and it’s down to them that the businesses have gone from strength to strength. “The opticians not only provides an important community service but has carved out a niche, providing eye-care to renowned musicians. It gives me huge pleasure to present Allegro Optical with this award.” Sheryl and Steve of Allegro Optical Winners of the Yorkshire and Humber Scale up of the Year We are so pleased to have won this award. It’s been a tough couple of years since we opened our first bricks and mortar store in 2017, but the family and staff have worked together and the business continues to grow. You can see Stephen and Sheryl’s interview here.   More than 2,000 small businesses from across the UK entered the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2019. A full list of UK winners can be found here.
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Tony was getting “Brassed Off” when he couldn’t see the music

The inability to see the music left trombonist “brassed off”

If ever we discover the meaning of life, we’re fairly certain that in our case it will involve music. So just imagine if music has always been a big part of your life. How you would feel if that gift were threatened. Tony Spencer of Simply Brass was facing that very situation when he came across Allegro Optical, “the musicians’ optician” at Brass in Concert at the Sage in Gateshead. Coincidentally Tony was a former player of many years with Kippax band, who recently won the Yorkshire Regional Brass Band Finals and are conducted by none other than Allegro Opticals Managing Director Stephen Tighe.  

Trombonist Tony Spencer of Simply Brass buys his glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician in Saddleworth and Holmfirth

Trombonist Tony Spencer of Simply Brass buys his glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician in Saddleworth and Holmfirth

Tony is a trombonist and co-founder of Scarborough based community band “Simply Brass”. He decided to travel to Meltham with his trombone a full consultation as he was struggling. To say that Tony presented us with a bit of a challenge is a bit of an understatement. But it has been a very rewarding experience for us as we have pushed the boundaries as a result.

Tony has a few eye disorders including early cataracts.  He also has an epiretinal membrane (ERM), a condition resulting in a very thin layer of scar tissue.  This has formed on the surface of the retina.

In addition to this, Tony has presbyopia and a very dominant left eye. Another issue is that while Tony’s left eye is his dominant eye it is also amblyopic, or “lazy”. Some studies have shown that saccadic latency is increased in cases of dominant amblyopic eyes.  Making seeing the music increasingly difficult, often resulting in double vision. So it is no surprise that Tony was having problems.

Finding the perfect solution

After a thorough consultation with our senior optometrist Claire Wightman, she decided to blur Tony’s left dominant eye.  It was causing more problems with his vision than it was solving. By Suppressing his vision in the amblyopic eye Claire was able to eliminate the symptoms of double vision. This improved his convergence and gave him a clear view of the music and the conductor.

Initially, we dispensed Tony with one of our Fogoto lenses to the right eye.  To give him the widest possible field of view, but this compromised his vertical field. This can be a problem for Trombonists as the weight of the instrument can cause the musician to pitch forward. Thereby raising the pupil position in the lens, altering the vertical field. Because of this, we changed the design of the right lens to a digitised freeform single vision lens with a small power reduction in the top allowing Tony to see the conductor. For the left, we used a balance single vision aspheric lens with a higher plus power.

Tony opted for photochromic lenses to help when playing outdoor summer concerts.  An anti-reflection coating to help with the glare caused by cataracts and an oleophobic coating for easy cleaning.  The job turned out to be a bit of a challenge for the lab as matching the photochromic layers. Reducing the magnification effect of the left lens proved difficult too, but by using different indices they got there in the end.

Freeform lens generation

Today’s new freeform generators are now so accurate they allow us to generate a nearly infinite number of lens surfaces with extreme precision and all in the UK. Tony opted for a fabulous British designed acetate frame from Hook LDN which gave him a good field of view with maximum style.

Trombonist Tony Spencer of Simply Brass buys his glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician in Saddleworth and HolmfirthTrombonist Tony Spencer of Simply Brass buys his glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician in Saddleworth and Holmfirth

When Tony collected his new glasses he was able to see the music on the stand clearly. He was also able to focus on the conductor. We contacted Tony a few days later to see how he was getting on with his new glasses. He said;This innovative approach by Sheryl and her colleagues at Allegro Optical has hopefully increased my time in banding.

On a recent visit, Tony even gave us a demonstration of his sight reading with his new glasses.

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

We are an independent family run business gaining an international reputation for our professional excellence, as well as our inventive approach to meeting customer needs.

Known internationally as the ‘Musicians Opticians’ for our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors have resulted in us becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM).  

We don’t hold with the idea that giving a musician a pair of occupational lenses, bifocals or degressive readers will solve all their problems. We treat each client as an individual because they are all individuals. Creating unique lenses to meet a musician’s particular needs is a challenge we like to embrace. As musicians ourselves we can ask the right questions and interpret the answers accordingly.

Award-winning eye-care

In fact so successful have we been in helping performers that during March we scooped the National ‘Best New Arts & Entertainment Business of the Year‘ at a gala event in London. As March drew to a close Managing Director Sheryl Doe becoming the 2019 ‘Dispensing Optician of the Year‘. Also during March Allegro Optical was awarded the  ‘Scale-Up Business of the Year‘ at the regional finals of the Federation of Small Business awards in York and went on to receive the FSB Chairmans award at the national finals in May. 

If you are a musician who is struggling with their vision and making music is no longer the enjoyable experience it once was. Call us at either Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham on 01484 907090.

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No more migraines and a colourful future

Thanks to colour Migraines are now a thing of the past

Music Teacher Julie Walker has had problems with glare for many years, which is often accompanied by severe headaches. Julie struggles daily as her severe photophobia often leads to migraines.  She had even taken to wearing prescription sunglasses for most of the day, even when indoors. However, this was getting in the way of her job. Julie’s employers, whilst sympathetic, encouraged her to remove her sunglasses. Especially when teaching and as a result Julies symptoms became worse, resulting in increased absences from work.

For many migraine sufferers just looking at certain visual patterns can trigger a severe headache. Stripes or polka dots, in particular, can induce an attack. A migraine usually includes symptoms such as a painful headache, sensitivity to light or sound,  flashing lights, olfactory sensitivity, nausea and/or vomiting.

A friends recommendation

 

Julie came to Allegro Optical on the recommendation of a musician friend who had visited us a few months earlier. We conducted a thorough eye examination and an OCT scan (Optical coherence tomography). We found that Julie had a very minor hyperopic prescription, with an add of +1. 75 but nothing else of any significance was detected. Julie who plays the guitar, flugelhorn and trumpet noticed that her headaches were also worse following a practice session. But she always played wearing her glasses and her refractive error had changed little since her last prescription. So this seemed unlikely to be the cause of the problem.

As the first course of action, we referred Julie to her GP for further investigation in case there were any other causes of her migraines. A few months later a very frustrated Julie returned as nothing had been found to be causing her headaches.  By this time she had more or less stopped playing. Julie was very distressed and desperately wanted to find a solution so we decided to carry out some more investigations.

Pattern glare and visual stress

There is some evidence from visual psychophysics studies which suggest that when a music stave has thick lines, perceptual distortions are likely to affect the clarity of the score. In some cases, this seems to induce a certain amount of visual stress. During some clinical studies, there appears to be a tendency for individuals with high pattern glare scores to read the scores with thick lines relatively slowly. Possibly suggesting that perceptual distortions can impair sight-reading because of the pattern from the lines of the stave. During the study using thinner lines increased sight reading accuracy and speed⬲. For this reason, we decided to conduct a colorimetry assessment using the pattern glare templates.*

In 1984 Wilkins proposed that the distortions arise in the visual cortex of the brain. Individuals with migraine are particularly susceptible to this stimulus, perhaps because migraine is associated with cortical hyperexcitability.

Colorimetry and the Pattern glare test

Many people find that a pattern like the one to the left is uncomfortable to view. Often experiencing eye strain, headaches and visual perceptual distortions. The reason for these symptoms is thought to be cortical hyperexcitability. Patterns such as this causes overstimulation of a hyperexcitable visual cortex and produces the above symptoms.

Reducing hyperexcitability

Coloured filters have been found to reduce the excitation of the visual cortex. Specific colours can in some cases reduce the stimulation of localised areas of hyperexcitability because neurons have different spectral sensitivities.

If cortical hyperexcitability explains the benefit from coloured filters for people with reading difficulties, then coloured filters should help other disorders. There are several disorders of the central nervous system which involve vision and in which the visual cortex may become hyperexcitable. These conditions include photosensitive epilepsy, head injury, multiple sclerosis and migraine.

Migraine can have many triggers, and clearly, precision tinted lenses (PTLs) would not be expected to help someone whose migraines were caused, for example, solely by chocolate or red wine. But Julie knew that her migraines often followed a rehearsal.  She also showed a consistent response to testing with the Intuitive Colorimeter (left). As a result, we were able to prescribe a pair of prescription PTLs and Julie now wears these spectacles for work and when playing. Thankfully her employers are now allowing to wear her spectacles at work.

A return visit

Cerium colourimeter in Allegro Optical Opticians Meltham

Three months later we repeated the colorimetry tests under three conditions; no tint, optimal tint, control tint. Again Julie showed a marked preference for the chosen hue and saturation of colour in the precision tinted lenses. When asked about her symptoms she reported a substantial decrease in the frequency of her headaches. She also reported a significant reduction in her reliance on medication since she began using her new glasses.  Julie said “So far, these glasses have made a big difference. Within seconds of putting them on, I could feel immediate relaxation in my eyes & my headaches have improved significantly. In addition to helping with my light sensitivity under the bright lights at work, they’ve helped with my sight reading and I can now enjoy my work and my music making.”

Clinical implications

Migraine is one of the most common disorders of the central nervous, and even if only a small proportion of people with migraine can be helped with PTLs, then this may still represent a significant role for the optical practitioner. Most of these patients can be self-referred. With the appropriate information, patients can evaluate whether their migraines seem to have a visual trigger. Our optometrists ask all our patients about any headaches they experience, as this helps them determine if any are associated with visual stimuli (e.g. flickering lights, patterns, computers, fluorescent lighting, text). Lines of text can often form a striped pattern that may elicit pattern glare so the reading of text (or music) can be a visual stimulus that might trigger a migraine.

This case study has shown that some patients with visually precipitated migraine can be assessed with an Intuitive Colorimeter to determine whether PTLs will be helpful and to identify the appropriate colour. Many patients like Julie usually know which visual stimuli or tasks precipitate their migraines, and this is when the PTLs need to be worn. In addition to the use of PTLs to “avoid triggers”, some patients also find that PTLs help to reduce the severity of their symptoms during migraine episodes.

Julie walker buys her glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician

Optical practitioners can play an important role in helping patients, simply by recognising the signs of migraine and referring them to their GP for modern medical management. So, even for cases who can’t be helped visually, we can play a useful role by suggesting diagnosis and referring to the GP.

Conclusion

An important part of the Optical practitioners’ role as a primary eye care professional is the investigation of headaches. Any patient with migraine-like headaches requires a thorough eye examination, and many will require referral for further medical investigation and/or treatment. For some, there will be a visual component to the migraine, and in Julie’s case, we were able to treat the visual element of her symptoms. The Intuitive Colorimeter and PTLs are important tools for helping patients like Julie.

Why “The Musician’s Optician”?

At Allegro Optical we provide specialist consultations for all performers and musicians. Please feel free to visit our practices in Greenfield, in the heart of the beautiful Saddleworth countryside and Meltham located on the edge of the Peak District in Holmfirth. As musicians ourselves, we’re able to ask the right questions and interpret the answers to create truly unique spectacles. Using our combined optical and musical skills we are able to address and resolve the many visual problems encountered by conductors, musicians and performers.

Allegro Optical specialises in all aspects of musician’s vision correction to return and enhance musicians playing pleasure and performance experience.  The team has over 150 combined years’ experience in the optics and entertainment industry. Whether you want advice or a practical solution, just call Allegro Optical in Greenfield on 01457 353100  or Meltham on 01484 907090 or visit https://www.allegrooptical.co.uk

⬲. Brewster, D. (1832). On the undulations excited in the retina by the action of luminous points and lines. The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, Volume 1(3), September; 169-174.

*. Wilkins, A.J., Nimmo-Smith, M.I., Tait, A., McManus, C., Della Sala, S., Tilley, A., Arnold, K., Barrie, M., Scott, S. (1984). A neurological basis for visual discomfort. Brain, 107, 989-1017.