Iconic folk singer Dafydd Iwan was touched when care home residents burst into song to wish him a happy 80th birthday.
The rousing rendition of Penblwydd Hapus (Happy Birthday) took place during a fun day at Pendine Park’s Bryn Seiont Newydd care home in Caernarfon where Dafydd was the star attraction.
Two songs into his set the gig was interrupted for an “announcement” by Pendine’s creative practitioner, Emyr Gibson, and musician in residence Nia Davies Williams, whose husband Pwyll ap Sion was accompanying Dafydd on the keyboards.
Staff and relatives then joined the residents with musical congratulations for Dafydd on reaching the landmark birthday.
He was a regular visitor to Bryn Seiont before Covid and his hugely popular anthem was adopted by the fans and the Welsh FA during Wales’s campaign in the football World Cup which boosted the singer’s popularity to stratospheric levels.
Dafydd Iwan said: “I’ve never been one to make too much of a fuss about birthdays but it’s struck me that 80 sounds terribly old.
“You have to adjust your attitude towards age and the singing helps to keep me young of spirit so I don’t feel 80 – although the voice feels like that sometimes.
“It was lovely having my old friends at Bryn Seiont singing happy birthday – it was nice to come here today to see some familiar faces.
“It was great to come back and see them responding to the songs. It was a very special experience.
“It’s been a while since I was here last because of Covid and everything else but I am going to try and come here more regularly now.
“I have sung to lots of people who are disadvantaged in different ways and singing is a way to connect with them.
“Several different songs break through and lights up the memory for different reasons. I enjoy this experience. It’s amazing that people who can’t remember their own names can remember words to the songs.
“Someone explained to me that’s the last part of the brain to go, the bit that remember things like words of songs, and I find that very interesting.
“You will meet some people who are unable to have a conversation who will sing every word to a song, and that’s remarkable. I get a great deal of pleasure from sessions like this.
“It’s good that a place like Bryn Seiont Newydd exists for the residents.”
Emyr Gibson said: “It’s been a lovely day and the sun came out so everything came together well.
“We even had people from the local community joining us even though they don’t have a relative at Bryn Seiont.
“The icing on the cake was having Dafydd Iwan here – he is a real national hero.
“He sang for over an hour and went down a storm and it’s clear he has a very special bond with the residents of Bryn Seiont.”
Nia Davies Williams said: “It’s been a fantastic afternoon and it’s been wonderful having Dafydd back here.
“He was a regular visitor before Covid struck and then everything went bonkers after Yma o Hyd was adopted as the anthem for the Wales football team during the World Cup campaign.
“Dafydd wasn’t available to come on the original date we had arranged the fun day but we had to postpone everything for the weather and we were thrilled that he was able to come today and that we were able to help him celebrate reaching his landmark birthday.
“He is a very special man who has time for everybody and after singing he took the time to chat to the residents and their families.
“Dafydd isn’t far off the age of many of our residents and the song Yma o Hyd means something special to us here at Bryn Seiont.
“Despite living with dementia, the residents are still here and enjoying the singing.”
There was also a starring role for care practitioner Karl Bohana who has been working at Bryn Seiont for the past 14 months after switching careers.
The ex-teacher is a talented singer and often entertains the residents by singing some of their favourite numbers.
Karl said: “I love it here because you can make a difference to people’s lives every day and that is appreciated.
“I usually just sing for the residents and it puts a smile on their faces and I enjoyed singing with Dafydd Iwan next to me.
“I sang his song, Hawl i Fyw, because inevitably there is some sadness from time to time because of the illness of some of the residents but we all have a right to live our best lives and that was the message today.”
Apart from the concert, there were a host of other attractions including donkeys and children’s rides on Shetland ponies and lashing of ice cream and cakes.
Bryn Seiont manager Sandra Evans: “It’s been a very special day and I’m grateful to all the staff for making it such a special day.
“We are very grateful to Dafydd because his gigs bring so much joy to our residents and their families.
“The arts in general and music in particular are central to daily life at all of Pendine Park’s care homes and we are extremely fortunate to have a living legend right on our doorstep here in Caernarfon.”