One of the world’s greatest harpists took time out from an international festival to perform for residents of a care home in Caernarfon.
Russian Valeria Voshchennikova was one of the stars of the opening concert at the Wales International Harp Festival in Caernarfon.
Valeria is a soloist with the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and is the principal harpist with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
The arts-loving Pendine Park care organisation was among the festival’s sponsors and as part of the arrangement Valeria staged a concert at Bryn Seiont Newydd, their centre of excellence for dementia care on the outskirts of the town.
Bryn Seiont Newydd’s resident musician, Nia Davies Williams, says residents and staff were fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to an intimate performance by such a talented harpist.
She said: “Valeria won the 2014 Wales International Harp Festival Chief Musician title and as a result was invited to return to Wales to perform in the opening concert of this year’s festival.
“We were honoured and delighted, as Pendine Park is one of the festival sponsors that she agreed to perform a short concert for residents. The harp is a very therapeutic instrument.
“People living with dementia tend to live for the here and now and it was clear that many residents were engrossed by Valeria’s stunning performance.
“We are so lucky, both staff and residents, to be able to enjoy performances by such world class musicians. Just because you are living with dementia doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and celebrate music.”
She added: “I thought Valeria’s programme was wonderful. We had the songs of larks and nightingales and the colour and excitement of Spanish dancers. The mix of music was amazing and Valeria’s performance was stunning.”
According to Valeria, it was an “amazing experience” to be back in Wales.
She said: “People in Wales love the harp and music in general. Music unites all people no matter what our governments and politicians do or say. I have enjoyed playing for a room full of residents just as much as I enjoy playing before a big concert hall audience.
“I just want to share and enjoy music. I played Franz Liszt’s The Nightingale and The Lark by Russian composer Mikhail Glinka among other pieces. I could see how much residents enjoyed the music and were really concentrating on what I was performing.
Valeria, who practices harp for up to four hours every day, added: “I was delighted to return to Wales as the Chief Musician from the 2014 Wales International Music Festival. I have been fortunate to have performed outside of Russia on a number of occasions now including a harp competition in The United States of America.
“I have also performed in Switzerland and at the Camac Harp Festival in France. In fact I was loaned a Camac harp for my performances in Wales as to bring my own harp from Moscow would have been very expensive.”
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill, established the Pendine Arts and Community Trust, to support the arts and community organisations.
Mario said: “We were pleased to have the opportunity to support the Wales International Harp Festival whose home at Galeri is right on our doorstep here at Bryn Seiont Newydd.
“Music is life-enhancing and enriches people’s lives and, with that in mind, Pendine Park provides support for more than 20 cultural and community organisations.
“The golden thread running through everything we do is our award-winning enrichment programme which put the arts right at the centre of how we improve the quality of life for our residents and also the staff looking after them.
“The arts are embedded in all our staff training programmes to ensure that enrichment is a part of daily life for everybody here.”
Valeria travelled to North Wales with her mum, Alexandria, who said they had been warmly welcomed.
Alexandria, through her daughter said: “Everyone in Wales has been so friendly and welcoming. It has been a wonderful experience. I enjoyed seeing how the care home residents enjoyed Valeria’s performance and how much they got from it.
“I am very proud of Valeria and what she has achieved. I have also really enjoyed visiting Wales again where the harp is such a much-loved instrument.”