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Last year Welsh National Opera launched Cradle, an intergenerational project in Swansea. The project was devised to gently introduce dementia awareness to primary school children and also to create a choir to provide a place for those affected by dementia to get together and have fun with friends and family through music and singing.
After the project’s success in Swansea, we have taken Cradle to Milford Haven this year. Since October we have been working with 96 children in Year 5 (aged 9 – 10) from Milford Haven Community Primary School – so far they have taken part in dementia awareness training, writing and composition workshops as well as visits to Havenhurst Care Home and Day Centre.
In the children’s workshops they have been writing songs which are all themed around people’s experiences of living with dementia, which they will sing in a final concert. In one song the children thought about how to provide advice on helping someone living with dementia:
When you're feeling a dash of confusion
we'll pour in a carton of trust,
(and) pop in a handful of reminding
with a heaped spoon of helpfulness.
Composer Helen Woods recently joined the school workshops to help the children set their six songs to music. The children will perform these at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven in July together with our new Cradle Choir and some WNO Orchestra players.
The choir is being led by David Fortey, who was one of the vocal leaders of the original Cradle Choir in Swansea; they meet every Monday at the Torch Theatre. Each week they rehearse and sing classic songs including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Moon River and Getting to Know You and there is never less than 35 eager participants attending. For the final performance, they had ‘reminiscence’ workshops about their memories growing up in Milford Haven and our writer Claire Williamson will work these into songs which our soloists will sing.
David Fortey told us about his experience:
I think the most important thing I’ve learnt from the project is that no matter how many people you bring together from all different walks of life; music is a powerful tool that helps to enrich lives.
WNO’s Cradle project has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players and the National Lottery Community Fund for Wales
WNO's Youth, Community and Digital activity is supported by a generous gift from the Garfield Weston Foundation