An opera singer was thrilled to win a prestigious award named after Sir Bryn Terfel with whom she sang when they were both teenagers.

At the prestigious Wales Care Awards, the world famous baritone himself presented his foundation’s award for promoting The Arts in Social Care to Kate Woolveridge, the co-founder and Artistic Director of Forget-me-not Chorus.

The category was sponsored this year by the Pendine Arts & Community Trust who support arts and community activities across Wales.

The glittering ceremony, sponsored by Ontex Healthcare, took place at City Hall in Cardiff and was hosted by top tenor Wynne Evans, better known these days as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

Kate, a professional singer, vocal animateur and musical director with over 30 years’ experience. was quick to emphasise the award was for all of the team at Forget-me-Not chorus, a charity which organises joy-filled singing sessions for people with all forms of dementia, as well as the families, friends and the professional staff looking after them.

She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted for the team and that all the work we do has been recognised in this way.

“The power of singing is inspirational and life changing for people with dementia. We’ve got community chorus’, hospital chorus’ and care home chorus’ and our latest Calon chorus, which is for those bereaved by dementia covers the whole dementia journey and we’re most proud of that.”

Kate, who lives in Cardiff,  sang in the National Youth Choir of Wales with Sir Bryn when they were both 18 years old.

“It was a smashing evening at the awards ceremony. First Minister Mark Drakeford was there and he spoke inspirationally and it was wonderful to see Bryn there who then sang beautifully,” she said.

Kate,a mezzo-soprano, has won numerous awards and appeared regularly on television and has given hundreds of concerts and recitals around the world. She set up the Forget-me-not Chorus charity after a successful project between Welsh National Opera (WNO) and the Cardiff & Vale Alzheimer’s Society.

The aim of the project was to establish a choir for people with dementia and within six months 40 people were attending regularly and in 2011 Kate and co-founder Sarah Teagle registered Forget-me-not Chorus as a charity.

During the Covid-19 pandemic Forget-me-not Chorus evolved their physical, face-to-face offering to a virtual one and seized the opportunity to significantly extend their reach.

This included bespoke song dedications sent to care home residents, outdoor car park concerts and filmed -resources. Kate said she was determined to show that no one had been forgotten behind the closed doors of lockdown.

Pre-pandemic, Forget-me-not Chorus ran ten choirs in Wales reaching 300 people a week. By September 2020, 52 Welsh care homes were engaging with Forget-me-not Chorus’ online resources and now over 1000 UK wide care homes subscribe to their online resources, five community choruses meet in-person in Wales and 20 UK wide care homes are part of Forget-me-not Chorus’ Singing Strong Care Home Chorus initiative.

The organisation runs community choirs in Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan, Newport and Abergele as well as online.

She said Forget-me-Not Chorus have several new exciting projects in the pipeline including another collaboration with Welsh National Opera due to take place next spring.

“And during the Wales Care Awards ceremony I met Greta Bettinson of Hijinx Theatre who had also been short listed for the Sir Bryn Terfel Award. Hijinx is a professional theatre company who are working to promote opportunities for actors with learning disabilities or autism and we have decided to look into the possibility of a joint project together,” she added.

Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.

He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after the rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.

“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to  have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.

“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.

“There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights and in the months and years to come.

“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.

”We take our hats off to them.”