A band of Anglesey ukulele players strummed their way into a Caernarfon care home to entertain residents – and to raise money for charity in the process.
And as a result a new ukulele group is planned which will have its base at Bryn Seiont Newydd, Pendine Park Care Organisation’s centre of excellence for dementia care.
No fewer than 17 members of Newborough Ukulele Group entertained residents in the care home’s dedicated music room and soon had residents joining in with a string of hits including That’s Amore, Blue Moon and Hello Dolly.
The group’s leader, Charles Marsh, a retired company director who set up the band in October 2017, says members really enjoyed performing at the care home.
He said: “We have a group of 36 members and most started playing round about the same time when we first set up the group. There are no experts; everyone is classed as an intermediate player.
“Our motto is OFF which stands for only for fun. Most members are retired and we are happy to go out and play in care homes and at community events.
“It’s all free. We don’t charge although we carry charity collection boxes and split any donations between the charities Age UK, Tenovous and the RSPCA. Members see it as a way of volunteering and bringing a smile to a few faces.
“We have set up two other ukulele groups on Anglesey, the Anglesey Strings and Trearddur Bay Ukulele Group. Our Newborough group meets every Monday at the community centre and I couldn’t be more pleased the way the group is developing.”
He added: “And it’s been wonderful to meet up with the relative of a resident here at Bryn Seiont Newydd, Gaynor Perry, who is herself a ukulele player.
“We now have concrete plans to set up a Caernarfon group which, thanks to Nia Davies Williams, Bryn Seiont Newydd’s musician in residence, will be based at the care home and may well include some residents.”
Former teacher and local newspaper reporter Gaynor Perry, 76, was in the audience for the Newborough Ukulele Group concert as she was visiting her husband, Bill, a Bryn Seiont Newydd resident since June of last year.
She said: “I started playing the ukulele when I was in university in the 60s. But I hadn’t played for years until my son bought me a new instrument for Christmas so I could play to Bill.
“I did set up a small group of three which we called Calipso using the Welsh spelling. We just played for fun and one of my friends was only really learning.
“Being here today has been wonderful except Bill was too poorly to enjoy the event and remained in bed.
“But having heard the players today I think it would be great to set up a Caernarfon group and the musician in residence, Nia Davies Williams, has said we could use the facilities here at Bryn Seiont Newydd.”
She added: “The facilities here at Bryn Seiont Newydd are amazing and I couldn’t be happier about the care Bill receives.
“He came here last year after we were both discharged from Ysbyty Gwynedd. I had broken my hip while Bill had issues surrounding his dementia.
“Bill was actually the first person to work on Ysbyty Gwynedd as he was the chief quantity surveyor when plans for the hospital were first drawn up. But the care he receives here at Bryn Seiont Newydd is just fantastic.
“The music room is so bright and welcoming and it was lovely to see so many residents joining in today and enjoying a sing along. If we can start a new group residents can enjoy regular events and join in.
“And those residents that can’t play a ukulele could do some percussion or perhaps play a kazoo. It should be a wonderful group and I’m sure we will get lots of interest.”
Newborough Ukulele Group members Patricia and David Burrow, both retired craft workers, thoroughly enjoy entertaining care home residents with their playing.
Patricia said: “I only took up the ukulele last June although David has played for longer and also plays the guitar. Coming to Bryn Seiont Newydd has been amazing and we have had such a lovely morning.
“It’s just wonderful seeing the smiles and joy on the faces of residents here today, that’s why we do it. We all get a real buzz from playing for people in care homes and at other community events.”
David added: “Patricia picked up playing really quickly and is doing well. We meet every Monday as a group and just love coming out to places like Bryn Seiont Newydd and playing for residents. They clearly get a great deal from it as we do too.
“The facilities here at Bryn Seiont Newydd are amazing and the music room is just fantastic. The residents really joined in and sang along which was fantastic.”
Nia Davies Williams, Bryn Seiont Newydd’s musician in residence, says she tries to give residents a range of experiences to suit all tastes.
She said: “We have recently had former Royal Harpist Catrin Finch perform here and now we have welcomed Newborough Ukulele Group. I think that shows we try to give residents a wide range of cultural experiences.
“It was lovely seeing residents joining in and having a good old sing-along. They may be living with dementia but many remember the lyrics to their favourite old songs.”
She added: “The idea of setting up a Caernarfon Ukulele Group is a great idea and I’m more than happy for the music room here at Bryn Seiont Newydd to be used as a base. Residents can and will gain a great deal from it and those that can’t play will still be able to sing along.”
Sandra Evans, the manager of Bryn Seiont Newydd, said: “This was a delightful and uplifting concert which chimedperfectly with our ethos at Pendine Park because the arts in general and music in particular provide the golden thread running through everything we do to enrich the lives of our residents and staff alike.”