Singing the Valleys is our new music-and-memories project in the Ogmore and Garw Valleys, which has been funded by Bridgend County Borough Council. After the big success of Growing Together, our year-long Digital Storytelling project funded by the Heritage Lottery, everyone was keen to do more and it was decided to add music into the mix. Dan y Mynydd Sheltered Housing in the Garw Valley was one of our bases for Growing Together and Yvonne Humphries, the Manager there, welcomed us back for this new project. We are also charting new territory and are delighted to be working with Cwrt Gwalia Sheltered Housing in the Ogmore Valley as our second participating group.
Singing the Valleys is an informal project; we aim to enjoy some music and singing with the residents of both places, to spark off and record some memories in the process and to compose some songs and music of our own. Music workers Laura Bradshaw and Neil White are working with us to lead the singing and work up some tunes. The 10-week project will culminate in an evening of performance and celebration with short films and songs from our group members, joining in with the Betws Community Choir.
So far everyone involved would describe Singing the Valleys as pure bliss. We already have a solid core of around eight elderly people in each of our bases and as people pass by and hear us singing more are joining in. Together we are belting out – with percussion – all the old favourites from Que Sera Sera and Danny Boy to The Green Green Grass of Home and Blue Moon. We’re singing in English and Welsh with African songs thrown in. Lena Charles, one of our oldest participants at 91 years even taught us a song in Hindi this week! We chat and reminisce between songs and are already taking our first faltering steps towards composing melodies and lyrics. Next week our Film Workers Tracy Pallant and Penny Lewis Stempel will begin to record some stories so the memories that surface are preserved.
It’s great to sing and even better to sing with other people and there’s nothing quite like looking round a circle of people aged between 80 and 95 singing their hearts out who are quite simply glowing with happiness. I suspect that our elderly companions would say the same of us too!