Music-loving residents at an award-winning care home in North Wales are to form their own choir.
Singing sessions have long been a part of daily life at Pendine Park’s Bryn Seiont Newydd care home on the outskirts Caernarfon.
The centre, which boasts first class facilities for people living with dementia, has its own music room and activities range from singing to enjoying concerts from leading artistes.
During lockdown kind-hearted opera superstar Sir Bryn Terfel and his wife, former Royal harpist Hannah Stone, sent a video message to the residents with a recording of the gospel song, If I can help somebody.”
Now Pendine’s musician-in-residence Nia Davies Williams has teamed up with Forget-Me-Not chorus to hold regular singing sessions and the aim is to create the centre’s own choir.
Nia said: “The residents love singing and for many of them music was a key part of their lives. Many of them were members of choirs and have fond memories of taking part in the practices, taking part in concerts and even going on tour.
“It is amazing to see the effect music can have. Many dementia patients have lost so much of their memories and can’t remember their words when they try to speak but you start playing a tune they know and they’ll sing along and remember every word from a tune they heard 50 years ago.
“We have linked up with the Forget-me-Not chorus and we have weekly sessions on Zoom which work very well. Now we will have monthly in person sessions too led by one of the chorus’ leaders. And our aim is to create our own choir.
The Forget-me-Not chorus launched in Abergele last year, 10 years after the first Forget-Me-Not chorus in Cardiff, and is now part of one of Wales’ leading dementia charities, organising weekly singing sessions for people with dementia, their supporters and carers.
The first session at Bryn Seiont Newydd was led by aspiring opera singer Rebeca Kirkby. Her friendly and bubbly personality soon had the residents singing their hearts out
Rebeca, 22, is originally from Northampton and studied music at Bangor University graduating last year with First Class Honours.
She joined the Forget-me-Not chorus last autumn and leads the weekly rehearsals in Abergele as well as sessions at two other care homes in the Colwyn Bay area
“I love anything to do with music and working with people. The residents here are very warm and welcoming and we sing a wide range of songs and there’s something for everyone,” said Rebeca.
“By the end of our session here the residents were teaching me a new song.”
I’m sure they will enjoy the experience of singing together.”
During the session Rebeca not only had the residents singing but waving their arms and clapping in time to the music.
They sang songs such as “Dream a little dream of me” which was made famous by Doris Day and “When The Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bobbin’ Along” which has been sung by stars such as Al Jolson and Bing Crosby.
They also rehearsed Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations” which was Britain’s entry to the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest. Rebeca said the song will be sung in part to commemorate the Queen’s Platinuim Jubilee celebrations in June.
One of the residents, 82-year-old former postman Elwyn Williams from Blaenau Ffestiniog has a background of choral singing and was once a member of a popular singing party, Hogia’r Moelwyn, in his native town.
Elwyn said: “I enjoy singing. I’ve been singing in choirs since I was a very young boy. I used to compete at the annual Jubilee Eisteddfod in Llan Ffestiniog back in the day.
“Then I joined choirs and was a member of Cor y Brythoniaid and enjoyed going to practice on a Thursday evening at Ysgol y Moelwyn and meeting up with the other choir members. One of the highlights of the year was taking part in the National Eisteddfod.”
Another resident Margaret Rotherham, from Talysarn near Penygroes said: “I enjoy singing and it makes me feel happy.”
Near the end of the hour long session the residents asked to sing their own song and Nia handed round copies of the Welsh hymn tune, Gwahoddiad and several residents got up and joined Rebeca in a rousing rendition of the well known “Mi glywaf dyner lais”.
The residents were joined in song by Nia and Bryn Seiont Newydd’s creative practitioner Emyr Gibson, who is no mean singer himself.
Manager Sandra Evans added: “The arts have always been an integral part of daily life here and the music never stops at Bryn Seiont Newydd.”