Two world-class musicians who went above and beyond to help care home residents during the pandemic are in the running for a top award.
Cellist David Petri and violinist Caroline Abbott – members of the renowned Hallé orchestra – are among the finalists at the prestigious Wales Care Awards, the Oscars of social care.
They were nominated for the accolade after more than a decade working with the Hallé’s community outreach projects, bringing the joy of music to the vulnerable.
The pair, who passionately believe in the therapeutic powers of music, are closely involved with the Pendine Park organisation which has care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon.
During the lockdown they recorded a series of videos of “musical workshops” which were played to Pendine residents to help keep their spirits up.
Supported by lead sponsor Ontex UK and organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales, the awards celebrate exceptional work in the social care sector.
David and Caroline are shortlisted for a Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation Award for promoting the arts in social care, with the category being sponsored by the Pendine Arts and Community Trust.
The winners of gold, silver and bronze will be announced at a glittering ceremony which all nominees are invited to attend at Cardiff City Hall on Friday, October 21.
The event will be live streamed online and the host for the evening will be popular tenor, Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV advertisements.
David and Caroline said they feel hugely honoured to have been chosen as finalists.
The long-standing Hallé members do their outreach work in addition to playing in the world famous Manchester-based Hallé.
The Hallé works with a number of organisations which specialise in caring for the elderly and people living with dementia, and it is registered as a Dementia Friendly organisation.
David, Caroline and other orchestra members of the orchestra have received training on the impact of dementia on patients’ and carers’ lives and gained a greater awareness of the specific needs of more vulnerable concert-goers.
David, originally from Denmark, but now living near Didsbury, south Manchester, and Caroline, who lives in central Didsbury, are both stalwarts of the Hallé‘s Education and Community Programme which takes the orchestra’s music out to those in society who may not be able to make it to a concert hall.
They regularly lead interactive workshops at care homes encouraging participants to join in singing, moving to music, playing percussion or even having a go at conducting.
Workshop leader David, has worked at the homes since 2009 and Caroline joined the scheme in around 2013.
Pendine Park Artist in Residence Sarah Edwards said their work has really changed people’s lives.
She said: “When they started there was almost a belief that music was an add-on of little importance. But over time everyone became aware of the great communication skills both these players have and the way they engage with residents really makes a difference to the general well-being of all involved.
“The effect on the staff at Pendine Park has also been dramatic. There’s real trust in the value of the arts in our homes and now regular staff members help keep musical activities alive when the Hallé players are not present. The homes have also bought musical instruments so activities can be continued.”
During pandemic lockdowns David and Caroline realised many residents would sorely miss live music so they voluntarily recorded more than 50 virtual workshops – nicknamed musical postcards – for screening online.
Sarah said they had gone above and beyond in doing this without being asked.
She said: “It had a profound positive effect and helped combat extreme feelings of loneliness and isolation. They are true musical heroes.”
David said: “There is nothing better than seeing people’s faces light up and feeling they can express themselves through the music.”
Caroline added: “It really is one of the best parts of our job. We love engaging with residents. It’s wonderful how much they give back especially during music improvisation sessions which can be joyful. David and I feel it’s a real privilege to have this friendship with Pendine.”
Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people like David and Caroline because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.
“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.
“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.
“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.
“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.
“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.
“They are Wales’s finest.”