Care home kazoo choir prepares for debut in aid of Poppy Appeal

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Musical residents at a care home who set up a choir of kazoos are planning to make their public debut at a charity concert to raise money for the Poppy Appeal.

The Singing for Fitness programme at Pendine Park in Wrexham has been a big hit and were originally organised to help residents’ breathing and increase their lung function and capacity.

Pendine Park residents help to keep fit through music ; Pictured are Pendine Park's Enrichment coordinator Elaine Lee and resident Sara Baur
Pendine Park residents help to keep fit through music ; Pictured are Pendine Park’s Enrichment coordinator Elaine Lee and resident Sara Baur .

The initiative was the idea of activities and enrichment co-ordinator Elaine Lee who works at Pendine Park’s Penybryn home which provides care for people with brain injuries and neurological problems.

The residents chose to raise money for the Poppy Appeal because they were inspired by the art classes in which they made forget-me-nots to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

They went on display during the North Wales International Music Festival which was being sponsored by the Pendine Arts and Communities Trust (PACT).

Elaine said: “The sessions help make residents more aware of their posture and breathing control especially residents with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It also enhances language skills and development.

“I find the Kazoo is unlike any wind blowing instruments you have to hum or make a noise for the kazoo to be effective.”

She added: “Mixing singing with the kazoo allows residents to express themselves and it increase self-esteem. I have seen it build residents’ confidence, they come to the next session asking if we can sing or play a particular song.

“Some residents even like to take the lyrics away with them so they can learn the words to a song. Everyone in the group knows each other’s favourite song or singer and no one is left feeling out of it.

“It’s built up their confidence, improved their memory by learning lyrics and remembering songs from the past and who sang them.

“Residents find the sessions so much fun and when they are not singing they are laughing and we have even had the odd dance.

“Even when the session is over some are leaving still playing their kazoo not realising they have also been exercising. It really is a fantastic work-out for the mind, body and soul.”

“We are going to concentrate on Christmas songs and lyrics over the next few months to prepare for the concert in aid of the Poppy Appeal which carries on throughout the year.

“The residents got a huge amount of satisfaction out of the art classes making forget-me-nots so the Poppy Appeal was the obvious charity for them to choose.

Wendy Browne, of Denbigh, joined in the Singing for Fitness session with her daughter, Julie Barnewll, 58, who has cerebral palsy and is a resident of Pendine Parks Bryn Bella Care Home.

She said: “Julie lived with me until she was 17 and then went into care. She was living in a care environment in Warrington, in a bungalow which she shared with two men who could not speak.

“She moved into Bryn Bella just over a year ago and has recently started to speak again herself. She absolutely loves it here. Getting her talking again has been wonderful. When she arrived at Bryn Bella she withdrawn and very solemn but that has changed.

“She’s now joining in with sessions such as these Singing for Fitness afternoons. She also enjoys the Drum Fitness sessions that Elaine Lee runs.”

“They are encouraged to take part and join in and they all seem to love it. The girls like Elaine are so dedicated and will do everything to help the residents make the best of things.”

Penybryn residents Mike Blakely, a former cabinet maker of Bagillt, Flintshire and stroke victim Tony Ithell, of Ellesmere Port, both enjoy playing the kazoo at the Singing for Fitness sessions.

Tony said: “I’m not a very good singer but I like to play the Kazoo. I always ask for a song by the Beatles who are my favourite group. I really enjoy playing the kazoo to their songs with Mike who is my best mate.”

Mike added: “It’s good fun and really gets us all going. It’s good fun and because we can play the kazoo instead of singing it means we can all join in. It’s quite hard work to be honest and really gets you working.

“But Elaine is amazing and we all have a good laugh. I think the idea of having a choir and putting on a Christmas concert is great and I’m looking forward to it.”

Penybryn manager Tracey Cuthill said: “The musical sessions with the kazoo have proved extremely popular and effective in helping our residents with their breathing.

“Music and the arts generally are at the heart of everything we do and led to the setting up of the Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT) which supports artistic endeavour and community groups across North Wales.

“We are passionate about enriching lives across the generations, for our residents and staff alike.”