An Elvis impersonator who’s also a hospital chaplain had residents at a dementia care centre of excellence All Shook Up when he paid them a visit.
The Rev Wynne Roberts dropped by for an hour-long show at Bryn Seiont Newydd in Caernarfon and his appreciative audience just couldn’t help believing their luck.
Kitted out in the trademark white slacks and boots, multi-coloured scarves and custom-made shades, the be-quiffed rocking reverend thrilled a full-house crowd in the music room with a procession of the King’s hits from the tender Wonder of You and It’s Now or Never to the groovier Blue Suede Shoes and Suspicious Minds.
Right from the start he had them singing and clapping along with tunes that many of them recalled from their early juke box days in the 50s and 60s.
When he’s not performing as the rock ‘n’ roll legend Wynne’s day job is as chaplain manager for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board covering all its facilities across North Wales from his base at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.
He said he was delighted to be doing the gig at Bryn Seiont Newydd because it brought back pleasant memories of how his homage to Elvis first began.
“I’ve always been a lover of music, particularly the King but hadn’t really sung much apart from in the shower. Then, about four years ago, I went along to see my late mum when she was in a residential nursing home,” he recalled.
“While I was there I decided to do something to cheer her and everyone else up so I sang a few Elvis songs for them.
“A bit later on I was attending an Elvis festival down in Porthcawl and went into a karaoke bar where I do some of his numbers. The audience went ballistic so I just took things on from there.
“I now perform as Elvis – and occasionally as myself – all over Britain and I’m currently booked up until January next year.
“People call me the Welsh Elvis which is very nice of them but I don’t try to mimic him – I just enjoy singing his songs.”
Wynne, who lives on Anglesey, added: “I sing for a lot of people with dementia at centres like Bryn Seiont Newydd and I find that music is a great avenue through which to reach people.
“Elvis songs are particularly effective for those with dementia because people now in residential homes were teenagers when he was making hits like Hound Dog and hearing them again takes them right back to when they were young.
“Even in the darkness of dementia people remember the words to the numbers they’ve known all their lives and often begin to sing along with me.”
Wynne says that although he has had many invitations to pay his unique tribute to Elvis beyond British shores he hasn’t yet accepted any of them.
However, he does hope to sing in Ireland sometime in the near future.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest dates coming up in his packed diary is an appearance alongside popular Welsh tenor Rhys Meirion in Criccieth on May 4.
For his performance at Bryn Seiont Newydd, Wynne was wearing an outfit representing how the King looked back in 1969 – including the cool large-framed sunglasses made specially for him by the man in the States who made the originals for Elvis.
The same man also makes shirts for Wynne and he has the white boots he uses in the act custom-made in Las Vegas, the place Elvis made his own.
Wynne worked his way through the Elvis songbook for the Bryn Seiont audience, which included quite a few relatives of residents.
He also responded to a number of requests and broke into Welsh for his version of Lonesome Tonight which went down particularly well.
Staff members too were singing and clapping along to Wynne’s rock rhythms and when he spotted care assistants Becky Ward and Caren Jones swaying to the music Wynne invited them to join him in the steps of the Hawaiian Dance.
Christine Wiggins was at Bryn Seiont to visit her 69-year-old husband Peter who has dementia.
She said: “I think Wynne is amazing and he’s brought a lot of joy to everyone here today.
“Peter was always a big fan of Elvis and he enjoyed watching the performance.”
One of the first residents to sing along with Wynne was former headteacher Margaret Rowe who is originally from South Wales and is now in her eighties.
She said: “I like listening to all kinds of music but I’m particularly fond of Elvis songs.
“It was marvellous having Wynne to sing for us and the song I enjoyed most was Lonesome Tonight, the one he did in Welsh for us.”
Also spotted bopping along to the music was Mary Williams, 88, who lived in Pwllheli before moving into Bryn Seiont. She said: “I loved hearing the Elvis songs today as they reminded me of when I was young and Wynne did them very well. I’m glad he came.”
Nia Davies Williams, Bryn Seiont Newydd’s resident musician, said: “Inviting Wynne here was part of our programme to enrich the lives of residents and we find that music can be particularly helpful for people with dementia because it stimulates emotions in a way that few other things can.
“We often have more classical performers here but it’s great to have some really fantastic pop music every now and then, especially Elvis songs with which many residents can identify as it comes right from their own era.
“We’re very grateful for Wynne for coming along and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the performance.”