A group of musical care home residents have been tuning up for an international festival with the help of an opera singer and a top accompanist.
Mezzo soprano Jenny Pearson and pianist Annette Bryn Parri who plays regularly for Sir Bryn Terfel spent the day at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham.
They were rehearsing songs which they will be singing with local schoolchildren at dementia music workshops at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod next month.
The care organisation is a long-term backer of the festival via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust which supports nearly 30 arts and community initiatives.
Among them is the prestigious Pendine International Voice of the Future which will be one of the highlights of the Eisteddfod which gets underway on Tuesday, July 3.
For the second year the Pendine Arts and Community Trust is contributing £5,000 to the prize fund with the rest being donated by the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation and Llangollen Eisteddfod.
The dementia workshop at the festival is being organised Sarah Edwards, the artist in residence at Pendine Park.
“We have been holding dementia workshops at Llangollen for five years now and they are really successful. It’s a chance for residents to mix with children and enjoy song and music in a relaxed atmosphere.
“The workshops are aimed at children while the visit of Jenny and Annette today is so residents can enjoy the songs they will hear at Llangollen and have a chance of learning them ahead of the festival.
“We are very lucky to have the support of Jenny and Annette. Jenny has run the workshops for the last five years and does a fantastic job. This year the workshops will be led by one of her Bangor students.”
“We take residents from each one of our care homes along with carers to Llangollen and it’s always a fun day that gets everyone involved.
“Residents have clearly enjoyed today and it’s been amazing to hear Hillbury Care Home resident Dianne Morris singing so beautifully alongside Jenny Pearson. She has obviously had training in the past and has a wonderful voice.”
Jenny Pearson, who performs regularly with Welsh National Opera and also works with Only Boys Aloud, has always enjoyed the Pendine Park dementia workshop project.
“It’s wonderful and lovely to come into care homes and share the power of music. My student, Morgana Warren-Jones will lead the Llangollen workshops this year alongside accompanist Annette Bryn Parri.
“It’s an important project and it’s always nice to see children enjoying singing with care home residents while also learning a little about dementia.
“Coming into Hillbury Care Home and the other Pendine Park homes and working with residents is just amazing.
“You meet people like resident Dianne Morris and have no idea she can sing so well. She has obviously had professional training and has a wonderful voice. But it’s a pleasure to sing with and listen to all of the residents.”
Accompanist Annette Bryn Parri, who has worked with Sir Bryn Terfel and other top opera singers, says this year she has having time off from performing on the main Llangollen stage but is still looking forward to the Pendine Park dementia workshops.
She said: “I’ve enjoyed playing piano all my life and have worked as an accompanist since graduating from the Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music in 1984.
“I’ve been involved with the Pendine Park project since 2015 and work with the Jenny Pearson and the Welsh National Opera a great deal, it’s a fantastic project and I love coming to Pendine Park care homes.”
She added: “We have a motto, if a resident is smiling, happy and enjoying the music and can remember the songs, that’s all that is important.
“Llangollen is always a brilliant day and I really enjoy playing in the workshops. This year will be the first year for 15 years I won’t be performing on the main stage. I’m having a rest but will still get a great deal of satisfaction from the workshops.”
Dianne Morris, 69, who is living with dementia, really enjoyed singing Jenny Pearson.
She said: “I grew up in Liverpool and had singing lessons as I did voice as part of my music A-level. I joined a music group in Liverpool and sang in the Anglican cathedral.
“I also sang at Liverpool Grand Opera, I was a gypsy girl in the chorus. I would have loved to have sung professionally but missed my chance.“
She added: “I’ve really enjoyed singing again today with the lady singer; she was wonderful and has a gorgeous voice. IT was really very good. I’m looking forward to singing with children, that’s going to be nice.”
Fellow resident, Heather Davies, originally from Bradley, near Wrexham, is looking forward to going to Llangollen.
She said: “I went last year and I remember some of the songs. I still sing the Banana song we learnt to myself!
“I enjoy singing and it’s been lovely hearing the lady sing today and been able to join in. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s nice they have come in to see us and sing with us.”
According to Hillbury enrichment and activities co-ordinator Lisa Bowering, the dementia workshop at the eisteddfod was one of the highlights of the year.
She said: “Residents really enjoy it particularly seeing and singing with so many children.
“The workshops are aimed at children and increasing awareness of dementia. The idea of today is to get residents in the mood and excited about Llangollen. It’s amazing how they remember the songs and how they enjoy joining in.
“I was watching residents as Jenny Pearson was singing and our resident Heather Davies, who was at Llangollen last year, joined in and was word perfect. It’s amazing how she remembered the song from last year.”