Norwegian youth choir enchants Wrexham care home residents

Hilbury Care Home in Wrexham enjoy a flash visit from Awesome Voices Choir from Norway on their way to the Eisteddfod. Pictured: Resident Doreen Cartwright joins in with the choir

A Norwegian youth choir, rated among the best in the world, delighted residents at a care home with a sneak preview of their performance at an iconic festival.

Skedsmo Voices gave a stunning concert of acappella music for residents of Hillbury House, part of Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham, ahead of their appearance at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

The programme included a Norwegian wedding song and the repertoire also featured a traditional Norwegian folk song accompanied by a xylophone and musical bells.

Hillbury House friends and residents, Doreen Cartwright and Betty Coggins, both in their eighties, said it was some of the most beautiful music they had ever heard.

Doreen, originally from Pentre Broughton, near Wrexham, said: “What a wonderful choir they are, with such clear voices. This was a real treat for us, such lovely entertainment to liven up our afternoon.”

Betty, who lived in Llanberis in her younger years, before moving to Hillbury House, said: “They were so good, I’m sure they will do very well at the Eisteddfod. I think they have the potential to win a top award.”

Skedsmo Voices come from Lillestrøm, about 25 km away from the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

Since their formation in 2005 they have participated in many different choral events and have an extensive repertoire, ranging from Norwegian folk songs and classical music to spirituals and Jazz. In 2012 they took part in the highly acclaimed Norwegian musical Dropout in Oslo and in 2013 at the World Choir Festival, in Riga, they came an impressive third place, gaining a silver diploma.

This year is the first time the choir has entered Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and they are all very much looking forward to the competition, as well as seeing more of North Wales.

Director Ingid Anette Danbolt, who has conducted the choir for 11 years, said they have been rehearsing their performances for several months.

She said: “I found out about the Eisteddfod via the Internet and we decided we would enter. We have been very excited about our visit here ever since.

“To also have the opportunity to meet members of the local community and perform at places like Hillbury House is also a great honour for us. We’re delighted to have such good feedback from the elderly residents here.”

Hillbury House, in Hillbury Road, Wrexham, was the first stop off for the 32-strong choir on entering North Wales.

“We haven’t even checked into our hotel yet, as we scheduled our programme so that we would perform for the Hillbury residents first,” said choir leader Marit Harich. “It’s been a lovely introduction for us to Wales. All the members have very much enjoyed performing and giving the residents a foretaste of the performance we will give at the Eisteddfod.”

Hillbury House manager, Cindy Clutton, welcomed the choir’s visit and said it made for a very special day for the residents.

She said: “Each year we try to arrange for as many of our residents as possible to visit the Eisteddfod site and get to see some of the shows there. But inevitably some people have mobility problems and other difficulties which means it is not always possible for them all to get to the site itself. So to have a choir like this come to us is a real pleasure. It means all our residents get to join in some of the festival atmosphere.

“Choir performances always get a good reception at Hillbury as their music has a particular resonance with a number of our residents and to have a choir of such high standard as Skedsmo Voices perform for us is wonderful. The quality of their singing is excellent.”

The choir’s members range in age from 13 to 22 and they all have an input in choosing the repertoire of songs they perform.

Ingrid said: “It’s important that everyone enjoys performing the songs and so we make a special effort to include a mix of tunes, so that each member of the choir takes something personal away from their performances. Back in Norway we also have a junior choir and so many of today’s performers have grown up with the choir, transferring from the juniors to the main choir once they were old enough. It means the music is in their blood. I’m very proud of them, we have some great natural musical talents.”

The choir travelled from Norway to Liverpool first, where they did a short tour, performing at distinguished venues including Liverpool Cathedral and the Museum of Liverpool,  before moving on to North Wales. They are staying at Wrexham’s Ramada hotel for the duration of the Eisteddfod.

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod outreach liaison office, John Gambles, was thrilled to welcome Skedsmo Voices to the region.

He said: “I was delighted that the choir agreed to give this special performance for Hillbury House residents. We try to make the cultural experience for all our visiting choirs and performers as meaningful and as enjoyable as possible, by inviting them to be involved in events like this.

“The benefits are two fold in that our visitors get to discover more about the people and places of Llangollen and its environs, plus the residents of care homes like those run by Pendine Park, still feel they have a real involvement in the Eisteddfod.

“It is one of the biggest and most loved festivals in Wales and many pensioners have visited it year after year in their younger years. For those who are no longer able to visit, for whatever reasons, we do our best to reach out and bring the performances to them.”