Community choir swaps its warm African rhythms to sing cool carols for Christmas


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A community choir which loves to perform the rich harmonies of traditional African music had a change of pace when they sang at a Christmas party.

The Rwsters choir was the star turn at the festivities held at Cysgod y Gogarth, at the £4.2 million flagship sheltered housing development in Llandudno.

The choir takes its name from the town of Llanrwst where they are all tenants of the Cartrefi Conwy housing association.

It was formed earlier this year in a bid to get elderly people out of their homes by giving them a stimulating new interest.

The group, the oldest member of which is 92, had their debut public performance singing their lilting songs from southern Africa during Cartrefi Conwy’s older person’s day at Venue Cymru in Llandudno this Autumn

And they went down so well with the audience that they were asked to perform at the Christmas party for over 45 tenants from a number of the association’s sheltered properties in Llandudno as well as older people living in their own homes.

Their performance was staged at Cysgod y Gogarth, an independent living development of apartments and houses which is a community hub in Llandudno’s Trinity Avenue.

But the choir were definitely out of Africa for the afternoon when they sang out a selection of carols and seasonal songs to delight their audience.

Choir leader Tilly Goodwin, 76, said: “Rwsters was formed as an off-shoot of the Altogether community group in Llanrwst last summer with the help of a grant from Arts and Business Cymru.

“The aim was to get older tenants out of their homes and give them a new interest.

“We started singing the African music at the suggestion of the lady who was our original choir tutor and we all liked it so much that we kept on doing it.

“It’s got some lovely harmonies and is very colourful which is why everyone loves it.

“We performed in public for the first time at the older person’s day at Venue Cyrmu last summer and I think everyone enjoyed hearing the music.

“Being part of the choir has certainly given us all a new lease of life.

“It’s been great to be here at Cysgod y Gogarth for the Christmas party and we sang some carols like Come All Ye Faithful and songs including White Christmas and I think we were well appreciated.”

Singing heartily along with the rest was the Rwsters’ most senior member, 92-year-old Sally Davies, who said: “I’ve really enjoyed the party today and being a member of the choir has been very exciting.

“I’d never really sung before I joined but I’m enjoying myself very much and it does get you out of the house.”

One of the younger Rwsters, 67-year-old Jennifer Jones, said: “We’ve been singing carols today which was fantastic but we had our first big performance at Venue Cymru with the African music we all loved as soon as we heard it.

“It’s been great to be part of the choir and we’re all looking forward to performing again in the future.”

Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Persons’ Engagement Coordinator, said “It has been a fabulous afternoon and wonderful to see so many people from the local community join in our Christmas celebrations. You could truly feel the spirit of Christmas with people from different walks coming together to share the festive fun.”

Guest of honour at the Cysgod y Gogarth Christmas celebrations was the Mayor of Llandudno, Councillor Carol Marubbi, who said: “This is a lovely place and it’s a pleasure to be here today to celebrate with the tenants, many of whom I know.

“Places like this take older people’s housing into the future and it’s fantastic to see the way Cartrefi Conwy supports its tenants.

“It’s been lovely to hear the choir and all this shows the importance of bringing people together.”

And, according to Ceri Twist, the housing association’s Independent Living Manager, this demonstrates perfectly the vital importance to Cartrefi Conwy of receiving cash each year under the Welsh Government’s highly successful Supporting People programme.

This is aimed at providing housing-related support to help vulnerable people to live as independently as possible and, across Wales, amounts to over £120 million annually.

Ceri said: “In our case the money we receive helps to finance our team of Independent Living Co-ordinators who do some marvellous work across the county of Conwy.

“Alison Hughes is co-ordinator for Llanwrst and she worked with older people on the Independent Living scheme who would benefit most from being part of the new choir and the improvement to their health and well-being it would bring.

“The Supporting People programme is vitally important to us because it’s all about bringing the community together so people don’t feel isolated and giving them a purpose.”

After the choir took their applause they were invited outside into Cysgod y Gogarth’s new sensory garden where a Christmas Tree, donated by Mochdre-based Wates, one of the contractors which worked on the development, was officially lit up.

Later there was a raffle from which all proceeds will go the Alzheimer’s Society in recognition of Cartrefi Conwy’s official status as a Dementia Friendly organisation.

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