An eminent harpist was reunited with an old friend when she performed at a music-loving care home.
Virtuosa Elinor Bennett staged a mini concert at Pendine Park’s Bryn Seiont Newydd care home in Caernarfon as a thank you for the support they have given to Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (William Mathias Music Centre) which she was instrumental in setting up.
Elinor said: “I’ve visited Bryn Seiont Newydd several times because it is only a short distance from my home in Bontnewydd and I am in awe of the work they do here with residents.
“I have meant to bring my harp along to play for the residents many times but our schedules never quite seemed to meet up but I am delighted to have finally had that opportunity and to say ‘diolch’ to Pendine Park,” she said.
Among the residents enjoying Elinor’s performance was Betty Morris, an old pal friend from Llanuwchllyn near Bala. The two had an emotional reunion before the other residents came into the room.
“Betty and I were in the same choir when we lived in Llanuwchllyn. My father was the conductor of the choir and we took part in concerts and competed in Eisteddfodau.
“She had a fine alto voice and we often sang together. I haven’t seen her for some time and it was good to see her once again,” said Elinor.
During the concert Betty joined in with Elinor in several of the songs.
“The folk songs I sang are ones which Betty and I would sing back in the day.”
Elinor said when she started learning to play the harp in the aftermath of the Second World War there were very few harpists.
Born at Llanidloes in the former county of Montgomeryshire her family later moved to Llanuwchllyn. Her father bought her first harp when she was just seven years of age though she did not begin lessons for another four years as her legs were not long enough to reach the pedals.
After leaving school Elinor studied law at Aberystwyth but later applied for and won a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Music in London, studying with the late, great Osian Ellis, the Flintshire-born harpist. After graduating she played with numerous orchestras at home and abroad.
Though known mostly for classical music she has also played with some of Wales’ most renowned rock musicians. She has recorded 12 solo albums and founded Coleg Telyn Cymru (Harp College of Wales).
Finding herself seated next to King Charles, who was then Prince of Wales. at a dinner she told him of the tradition of a Royal harpist but which had not been filled for more than a century.
“He was interested and asked me to send him a proposal which I duly did. That led to the revival of the tradition with the first being Catrin Finch in 2000,” said Elinor.
At Bryn Seiont Newydd Robert Jones, from Pwllheli, made a beeline for a front row seat when he spotted the harp.
He said he enjoyed Elinor’s performance and at times could be seen conducting the music.
“I’ll have to bring a baton with me next time,” he commented.
Former police officer Dafydd Edwards, originally from Dolwyddelan,near Betws y Coed, told Elinor he had been a member of Cor y Brythoniad, the male voice choir based in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
“I enjoy singing and I thought the harp playing was wonderful,” he said.
After the short concert Caernarfon-born Margaret Rotheram said: “I enjoyed it very much. I like music of all sorts a lot.”
Pendine’s musician in residence, Nia Davies Williams, was delighted Elinor, her former harp teacher. had been able to play for the residents.
“It was a wonderful surprise for many of them to have one of the world’s leading harpists play just for them.
“The room was full and everyone thoroughly enjoyed hearing Elinor play and many of them joined her in singing some of the songs,” she said.