by Laura Bradshaw, Music and Song Worker
This term I have been working with the Betws Community Choir and the residents at Dan y Mynydd Sheltered Accommodation unit in Blaengarw. Both projects had different aims and objectives but came together at the end of term at Dan y Mynydd for both groups in a joint sharing of what they had achieved through the term.
The residents at Dan y Mynydd quickly formed a tightly knit group, motivating each other to be ready for the music session first thing on Monday mornings. One of the residents, Joe, lives in a flat upstairs and had not managed to get downstairs due to a fall which had physically damaged him and possibly knocked his confidence for a while. Our project seemed to help him to have the goal of getting downstairs as I found that on my second week he was there in the lounge with a big smile on his face waiting for the music to begin!
During the project we used physical exercises and breathing exercises to warm up and prepare ourselves in body and soul for singing and music-making. This always brought about much laughing! We sang songs that the group knew or suggested – sang a song for the local Carnival and Shrove Tuesday and also some Welsh songs. We also did some song-writing and as St David’s day was fast approaching we used this as an excuse to create a St David’s Day song. With Lina helping out with the Welsh we even created a Welsh language chorus! We had our own celebration of St David’s Day with daffodils a-plenty, including an extra large daffodil – AKA Pat – one of the residents who dressed up, and is fabulous fun to be around!
The Betws Community Choir have had a very busy and focused term as our ultimate aim was to perform at the Wales Millennium Centre Glanfa (the stage in the foyer) as the warm up act for ‘Lord of the Dance’. Although they had other performances at the Porthcawl Pavilion and Betws Primary School within the term too, we worked hard on perfecting our set which consisted of some songs we’d performed before but knew and loved; we also couldn’t resist adding the song Lord of the Dance. Many of the choir members sang solo lines in this and we also had Katie – our resident Irish champion dancer- doing her Irish Dance during the final chorus! Shaun – who is our guitarist – arrived and saw the piano on stage and asked if he could play the Oasis song ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ on it. I didn’t know he could play the piano so this was a real treat as he played it beautifully. Tracy and Macie – our house band- performed their accordion and violin with great musicality and the choir – young and old(er!) performed with a passion and maturity that I’d never seen before in them. I was SO proud! They also had people from groups I work with in Cardiff joining them on a couple of songs which was actually quite moving and provided a lovely contrast throughout the 50 minute programme.
There was great feedback from audience members, people from the Cardiff groups as well as Glanfa staff. They’ve even been asked to perform at a fundraising event in Cardiff as a result, as well as the Millennium Centre wanting to use the choir in a film… Watch this space!!
A week later the two groups of Dan Y Mynnydd and Betws Community Choir came together for the “get together”. What a lovely way to end the term! Each group sang to each other and then there was lots of singing together, cups of tea and cake provided by our host Yvonne of Shaw Trust, and two of our younger choir members performed to the residents, which was just fabulous!