Welsh singing superstar Tom Jones may have some competition on his hands as a Wrexham care home choir has been perfecting their version of his mega hit Delilah.
The mixed choir of staff and residents at Pendine Park’s Bodlondeb care home are hard at work rehearsing for a big performance later this year.
They want to be stars of the show at a bumper celebration day marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Bodlondeb, which was officially opened by the then First Minister, Carwyn Jones.
To make sure their voices are in tiptop condition they have been practicing the Ivor Novello winning number Delilah which Tom Jones first made his own back in 1967. In the years since it has become a virtual ‘second anthem’ across Wales.
Bodlondeb Enrichment and Activities Co-ordinators Arlen Lleses and Anna Malabad, who lead the choir, say Delilah is a great song to kick off rehearsals with and get the choir’s voices warmed up.
Arlen said: “It’s perfect as everyone knows it, the tune is fun and irresistible and even people passing by will join in when they hear us practicing. They’re getting fabulously good at it now!”
She let slip an unofficial secret that at the summer celebration the choir are actually hoping to perform the real Welsh National anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers).
She laughed: “Honestly we’re trying not to let too many people know. We’re practicing it in secret as it’s quite hard to do and we don’t know how good our rendition will be by the time the big day arrives.
“But if all goes well, we’ll add it to the programme. We are still working on drawing up the remainder of the programme. Through our rehearsals we will get to see which tunes suit the choir best and probably go for those.”
The choir are trying their best to practice daily between now and August but it is often difficult to get everyone together at the same time if some of the residents are not feeling up to it or choir member staff are on days off.
The small choir has been going for three years and now has eight regular residents and nine members of staff in its ranks.
Among the residents are music fans Barbara Walton, Alan Coop and Barry Ellis, who said their spirits are lifted by the chance to do some singing and learn new numbers.
Arlen said: “We try to keep our repertoire fairly light and upbeat with well-known songs that audiences will easily recognise and are not too technically difficult. We usually do about three or four public performances a year. Our last ones were at Christmas for the rest of the residents and at Halloween last October.
“But the coming anniversary show will be our biggest performance yet as there are likely to be lots of visitors here as well as residents.
“It will be a big and hopefully very happy day celebrating the passing of 10 years since Bodlondeb first opened so we want to ensure we put on a really strong performance. That’s why we’ve started rehearsing so early and are doing our very best to fit in at least one practice session a day even if it’s only for a few minutes and not everyone can make it.”
They took the opportunity to sound out some of their potential audience by performing at the end of a recent dance workshop which was held in the main lounge at Bodlondeb care home.
The choir performed their evergreen favourite Delilah, then followed it up with a rendition of the melodic Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will be Will be), originally made famous by Hollywood movie star Doris Day in the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Arlen said: “They both went down quite well so hopefully we are on the right tracks!”
She said they usually try to do older songs which are more familiar to many of the elderly residents and dementia patients in particular are more able to recall the verses and distinctive tunes.
Bodlondeb manager Ann Chapman said: “We’re all immensely looking forward to the choir’s performance this summer. It is an important occasion and a time for our entire Bodlondeb family to celebrate. There’s no better way to that than with some uplifting music. And by the sounds echoing from those daily rehearsals –particularly the spirited strains of Delilah – we’re in for something really special.”