Top harpist swaps Albert Hall for care home
One of the UK’s most talented young harpists treated care home residents to a virtuoso performance.
Elfair Grug, 29, swapped the prestigious Albert Hall in London for Pendine Park’s Bryn Bella Care Home in Wrexham where she put on an hour-long concert.
Her repertoire included classical music, some Irish, Scottish and Welsh folk tunes and some pop songs from the likes of Elton John and the Beatles as well as numbers from musicals such as the Sound of Music.
The concert came about as the result of a partnership between the Pendine Arts and Community Trust and Arts and Business Cymru who provided additional funding via their Culture Step programme and the music teaching centre, Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias in Caernarfon.
It was the first in a series of 15 concerts at Pendine Park’s care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon and at other venues in the community.
The project will culminate with a concert by former Royal Harpist Catrin Finch at Pendine’s Bryn Seiont Newydd centre of excellence for dementia care on April 18, ahead of her performance at the 2019 Wales Harp Festival concert at Galeri in Caernarfon.
Elfair, who hails from Mynytho, in Gwynedd, is a former pupil of the renowned harpist, Elinor Bennett, at the William Mathias Music Centre at Galeri, Caernarfon, and went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
She was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for a number of years playing in venues such as the Royal Albert Hall.
And in 2008 she was one of 60 harpists who played at the Royal Opera House when Prince Charles celebrated his 60th birthday.
Elfair went on to spend two years living in Bangkok in Thailand where she worked as a harp teacher and harpist in residence at the Tamnak Prathom Harp Centre which is supported by the Thai Royal Family and is twinned with the William Mathias Music Centre in Caernarfon.
She said: “I always enjoy performing in care homes – it’s intimate and so rewarding. I work freelance as a harpist and perform with full orchestra’s or chamber groups but the reaction you get as musician from many care home residents is amazing.
“There has been lots of physical stimulation today and eye contact and it was nice to see how residents reacted to different pieces of music. I have played some classical and folk pieces alongside songs by Elton John and the Beatles.”
Bryn Bella resident Tracey Wilde, 57, enjoyed the concert as she had herself trained to play the harp as a teenager.
Tracey, who has had a stroke, said: “I really wanted to learn to play the harp as a teenager and had lessons.
“It’s really hard and I wasn’t as talented as Elfair but I did enjoy learning to play it a little. I never got to the stage of taking exams or anything like that.”
She added: “I really enjoyed the concert and in particular Hey Jude by the Beatles, that always been a favourite anyway.”
The concert also brought back fond memories for Mike Blakeley, 59, a resident at the Penybryn Care Home.
He said: “I really enjoy harp music. I had a girlfriend when I was about 15 who played the harp really well and listening to the concert brought back some really good memories.
“I really enjoyed the Elton John song she played. I remember ‘Your Song’ when it was in the charts. I love it.”
Bryn Bella Care Home residents Julie Barnwell and Christine Jones both enjoyed the concert.
Julie said: “I love it especially The Sound of Music, which was the best tune.
“I like live music and it’s brilliant they come in and play for us as we can’t really get to concerts.”
Christine Jones added: “The whole concert was very relaxing and just lovely to listen to. I loved it and hope we can have a harpist come back and perform again.”
Pendine Park’s musician-in-residence, Nia Davies Williams, said: “It’s an important part of the Pendine Park ethos that we use the arts to enrich the lives of people across the generations. Our enrichment programme involves art in all its forms including music, poetry, storytelling and painting.
“The arts are embedded in all our staff training programmes to ensure that enrichment is a part of daily life for everybody here and this project will enable Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias and Pendine Park to build on their relationship following Pendine’s sponsorship of the 2018 Wales International Harp Festival.
“Students will also have the opportunity to attend some of the concert sessions to have a taste of music in community settings and be mentored by Elfair.”
She added: “It’s a wonderful project and we know from past experience how much residents enjoy these concert events. It’s only been possible to put the project together thanks to the Arts and Business Cymru Culture Step Funding.”