A choir which had just flown 12,000 miles from Indonesia to Wales to compete at an international festival stopped off to join in the 80th birthday celebrations of a care home resident.
The family of Irene Williams was overcome with emotion as the choir burst into a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday in the sun-drenched gardens of the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham.
It was their first song on the first stop of a busy itinerary for the Jinggaswara Itenas Choir, from Bandung, Indonesia, who are in North Wales to compete at the 2017 Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
Irene’s daughter, Tammy Hoskins, who was at Highfield care home with other members of the family, said: “It was just beautiful. Everyone was so touched when they sang Happy Birthday to mum. They sang so hypnotically. We were lucky that the choir’s visit coincided with mum’s big day. It made it even more special.”
The choir comprises of young students from the ITENAS technical university. Their visit to Highfield residential home was arranged as a thank you to Pendine Park which is one of the key sponsors of the Llangollen Musical Eisteddfod.
Pendine Park’s consultant artist in residence, Sarah Edwards, who has been running a series of children’s workshops on the eisteddfod site said: “It is a lovely occasion for all the residents here and it was so great that Irene’s birthday fell on the same day as the choir’s visit. We couldn’t have wished for anything better.
“The visit was arranged to give some of our residents, who for mobility and other reasons are unable to attend the eisteddfod, a taste of what it is like. It has been a really uplifting experience. These sorts of visits, especially when orientated around music, are so good for residents’ wellbeing.”
One resident, Joan Cliffson, 80, said she loved the vibrant costumes of the choir and was entranced by their music.
She said: “It was lovely, so colourful and their harmonies were excellent. I have always loved music as my husband, Jeff Cliffson, is a singer in Wrexham. He sometimes comes and entertains the residents here so music is something that has always been in our lives.”
Another Pendine Park inhabitant, Barry Bellis, formerly from Rhos, said the performance rekindled memories of his youth when he played in a band.
“We were called The Casuals,” he laughed. “I play guitar and I love music of any kind so this was a perfect day for me.”
Jinggaswara Itenas Choir artistic director Rita Victoria Hildemina, was thrilled to meet the residents of Pendine Park.
She said: “Music is something that can always be enjoyed no matter how young or old you are. We try to spread that message through our songs.
“All our choir members were eager to visit Pendine Park and chat with the residents. It was the first stop for us after flying over from Indonesia.
“It was a long flight but despite that we were still full of excitement about this very special performance and especially pleased to sing Happy Birthday to Irene. We feel very honoured to be asked to visit Pendine Park.”
This year is the third time Rita has performed on the eisteddfod stage, having competed as a soloist in 2010 and then with the choir in 2013.
She added: “A handful of the choir members who came here in 2013 are back with us this year, but most have not been to Llangollen before. They all have said what a wonderful, friendly venue it is. On every visit we have been given such a warm welcome, it feels like a second home.”
Led by their conductor Lusianna Daulay, the choir delighted everyone in the audience with a riveting repertoire of Indonesian love songs and folk songs, including one about a greedy lizard which has to learn to stop being so greedy and be grateful for the simple things in life.
They also sang some specially rehearsed songs in English, including Danny Boy, encouraging residents to join in.
Thanking the choir, Pendine Park Wellbeing co-ordinator Chris Lewis, said: “Everyone has loved it and we were blessed with a beautiful summer’s day so the choir could sing in the garden, which made the atmosphere even more buoyant. It really was an amazing occasion which we will remember for a long time.”
Highfield manager Tracey Smith said: “Music plays a central role in our of our everyday life at Pendine Park and our enrichment programme enriches lives across the generations so it was very appropriate that choir came here today.
“The fact that they were able to sing Happy Birthday to Irene was a perfect and very touching moment which meant a great deal to her family and all of us here at Pendine Park.”
Resident, Emma Barber, who tried her hand at playing one of the choir’s drums, said: “They were great. For a choir who has travelled from so far away to play right here in our garden is a real privilege. Here’s hoping they go on to win first prize at the Eisteddfod!”