International language of music enchants Wrexham care home

The sounds of Scotland came to a care home thanks to a Gaelic choir who took a break from performing at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

Residents at Gwern Alyn home in Wrexham were treated to a medley of tunes thanks to the acapella  sounds of the Glasgow Islay Gaelic Choir.

They were in North Wales to perform at the Llangollen cultural festival, against singers  from around the world in the Folk Choir section.

And hours after taking the stage, they took up an invite from the home, part of the Pendine Park care organisation to sing traditional folk songs such as The Sweet Milkmaid and Highland Cathedral for residents – ending with their own version of Bread of Heaven.

“You’ve made my day,” 85-year-old former Shotton steelworker Wilf Jones told the choir after they had completed their performance, in the shade of a spreading tree in the home’s gardens.

“I love this sort of singing, it’s proper music, all in harmony.  It is one of the good things about living here, having such high class entertainment. I used to sing with my younger brother David where we were younger, and this has really brought it back to me.”

The choir was formed in 1944 by Scottish  islanders who had moved to Glasgow to find work, explained present conductor Kirsten Grant. Today it’s 40-plus members range from 18 to over 70, and come from a variety of backgrounds and locations in Scotland – with even one German member.

“We sing traditional folk songs that have been arranged for choirs, all in Gaelic.  We last came to the eisteddfod in 2006 and haven’t been able to get back until to this year. we’ve also performed in Canada and with the other Celtic nations, Ireland, Brittany, Isle of Man, Wales and Cornwall.

“Competing at the Eisteddfod has really taken us out of our comfort zone, because of the high standard of the other choirs. ”

For singer Alun Crawford, 70, a retired geography teacher, performing at Gwern Alyn was a delight.

He said: “It’s been lovely to come along to the home to perform for the residents, and to share our music with them.”

Among the residents enjoying the music was 95-year-old Beryl Francis, who was taken back to her childhood in Marchwiel.

“I never got time to go the International Eisteddfod when I was younger, so it’s lovely to have them come to us here,” added the former secretary.

And Marian Jenkins, 84, recalled her schooldays in Sandycroft, taking part in Urdd Eisteddfodau with her family. “Tough I preferred the music from the dances at RAF Sealand,” she admitted.

Care home manager Jen Roberts thanked the International Eisteddfod organisers for arranging the visit. “Music is very important to our residents, when you have dementia it is a way of unlocking memories.  I can tell from everybody’s faces that they’ve all enjoyed the performance.

“It is very good of the choir to come here to perform when they’ve not long come off stage, and they have to rehearse for tomorrow as well.

“It’s is part of the programme of events that Pendine Park puts on for residents, such as the link up we have with the Halle Orchestra, as part of our residents enrichment programme.”

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