A talented harpist and pianist has helped bring the sound of live music back to a Wrexham care home after more than two years of pandemic restrictions on visiting performers.
Bethan Griffiths, of Treuddyn, near Mold, prompted residents of Pendine Park’s Hillbury House to sing out loud when she gave only the second indoors concert since professional musicians were allowed back into the home.
Faces lit up with emotion as Bethan played old favourites like Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, and Christopher Plumber’s Edelweiss, from the hit movie The Sound of Music.
One emotional resident, Val Barnett, said she could not help but sing the lyrics to accompany Bethan as she played so beautifully.
She said: “What a Wonderful World is one of my very favourite tunes and Bethan played it so magnificently. I just had to sing out loud. I was unstoppable.
“It was magical to be able to listen to a professional artist playing for us live again and to sing along with her.”
The concert was organised by Caernarfon-headquartered music organisation Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (CGWM) for which Bethan is a tutor in harp and piano.
CGWM fundraising intern Aled Rosser said it was arranged after they secured funding from the Art and Business Cymru Culture Step programme which invests in a range of innovative partnerships between the arts and business sectors in Wales.
It was the first of two concerts CGWM presented for Pendine Park care organisation which runs Hillbury House along with seven others in Wrexham and Caernarfon.
The other concert by Anglesey-born pianist and piano tutor, Iwan Wyn Owen, was held at Pendine Park’s care homes in Summerhill, Wrexham.
Pendine Park Artist in Residence Sarah Edwards said it was a thrill to have performing artists return to entertain residents once more.
She said: “Pre-pandemic we would have all kinds of artistes including professional singers and even dancers in regularly to perform for residents.
“They were among the most exciting and enjoyable parts of our cultural enrichment programmes.
“But due to the lockdowns and other social restrictions necessitated by the pandemic it has been such a long time since we have been able to welcome any musicians indoors. So, these concerts were extra special for us all.
“It is so beneficial for the residents as music provides such a positive boost for everyone’s general wellbeing, especially when it is performed live and the performers often have impromptu chats with our residents and ask for requests which always goes down well.”
Bethan is a Royal College of Music Master of Performance graduate who has played at prestigious venues across the UK, Europe and USA. She said it was an honour to play for the Hillbury residents.
She said: “This is my first time playing in a care home like this and it has been a fantastic experience, in such intimate surroundings. It is lovely to see the residents’ faces and their smiles as they begin to recognise the music.
“I tried to mix up the programme a little so they had a little bit of classical, some jazz, numbers from the musicals and even a hint of Elvis,” she laughed.
Bethan has played piano since the age of seven and took up the harp when she was 10. She has competed at many eisteddfods and won many awards including first prize in the National Eisteddfod harp solo, as well as being chosen as a finalist in the Blue Riband competition on two occasions.
She has performed with many orchestras across the UK including NEW Sinfonia – resident orchestra at the North Wales International Music Festival – City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
A keen chamber musician, she also performs regularly with her flute and harp group, Hefin Duo, as well as Trilogy, a flute, harp and viola trio.
She became a tutor of both piano and harp with CGWM in early 2020 but very soon after her appointment the pandemic struck. As a result, she had to completely change her approach to teaching to accommodate the challenges of offering virtual format lessons online.
She said: “Things are only just now returning to a kind of normality so it was such a thrill for me to come here and sit so close to the Hillbury audience as I played to them, rather than locking myself away in my room with a computer screen or my phone. It was a complete joy and I want to thank all the residents and staff at Hillbury for being so welcoming. I’d love to return on a future occasion.”
Hillbury manager Cindy Clutton said it was a sheer delight to listen to the sound of a piano reverberating through the corridors again.
She said: “Bethan is such a natural talent with a hypnotic way of playing. Whether it was classical or modern. she kept the audience mesmerised.”
Hillbury resident Audrey Taylor echoed her words. She said the concert took her back to her younger years when she used to enjoy attending concerts as a girl.
She said: “Bethan has such a natural gift, the way she played the piano was just entrancing. It has been a truly lovely afternoon.”