As most of you know about 30 odd members of the choir and some friends and family have started to learn Welsh before practice on a Thursday night and everyone seems to be enjoying it. Under the tutelage of the lovely Lynne Davies we are hoping this will better prepare us for our entry to the National Eisteddfod in August. Besides, as a Welsh Male Voice Choir in a very anglicised part of Wales, it’s good to be able to spread our culture a little more widely.
Those of you who have been in the choir for more than 5 years will remember Libretto, a monthly, humorous magazine produced by Mark Stocker. I remember writing a short series of my experiences in the choir called ‘LOVIN IT’ and one of those articles expressed my observations and reminiscences of once trying to learn Welsh and my thoughts of singing in Welsh in the choir. I’ve reproduced it here but it can be found (and my other ramblings’ by clicking on the LOVIN IT tab in the cloud bar on the right hand side of our home page.
I hope it helps to encourage you in your Welsh lessons.
LOVIN’ IT! Ramblings of a Chorister (from Libretto 2010)
I was watching the telly the other night and scanning through the Freeview programme guide for a film on channel 4, which I pressed only to discover that Channel 4 is in fact on Channel 8 and what I actually turned on was ‘Pobl y Cwm’ on S4C. Brilliant, because although I dislike TV soaps, one of the things I love about the choir is singing in Welsh! Bearing in mind that my singing in English is questionable, at least singing in Welsh gives me an opportunity to practice miming. Maybe I look like one of my goldfish, but I hope I’m not like John Redwood MP singing the National Anthem! Remember?
Now this really is shameful since claiming to be Welsh myself and remembering that my Nan was a Welsh speaker I really ought to make an effort to learn the basics of the language. I used to be reasonable in French and German at school so how hard could it be?
So here we go. I have a mate who’s self taught but fluent in Welsh so I ask him for a few tips. First of all he says that Welsh is easy because it’s phonetic, there is no K, no J and no X except for jam, Jones and Xmas (classier Welsh people say Nadolig) but there are a few more letters in the alphabet, like RH, LL and that W and Y are sort of vowels. I discovered that the order of words is totally different to English and that the verb comes first in most sentences and adjectives follow the noun, like in ty bach. Oh oh! This is going to be harder than I thought. So we start with Rwy’n hoffi coffi – I like coffee. Actually I don’t like coffee much but it sounds good so I’ll go along with it. Rwyt ti’n hoffi coffi – you like coffee, but only for close friends, relatives, children and pets do you use ti, otherwise use Rydych chi’n hoffi coffi. Oh my God! What if I use the wrong form to my Auntie Lil, will she be offended? Probably not, she’s been dead for 10 years. But what do I say to the cat? She doesn’t like coffee anyway, so I don’t suppose it matters. How close do friends have to become before you change from chi to ti? Before or after you’ve slept with them? Or just on shaking hands terms?
Anyway, I’m beginning to enjoy it, so I say to my friend “Why is it that Welsh for Wales is ‘Cymru’ but on the sign by the Severn Bridge it says ‘Croeso i Gymru’ with a G?” “Ah, that’s what we call mutation”. I immediately think of Mutant Ninja Turtles, but he says that nouns beginning with certain letters following a preposition like of, from, to, in etc., the beginning of the word changes, like C changes to G (cath to gath), P changes to B (pobl to bobl), G is dropped altogether (gardd to ardd), B to F (bwced to fwced) and so on, but only for feminine words, not masculine. What! Male and female words like in French and Italian? I can understand bachgen (boy) is masculine and merched (girl) is feminine but how the ‘ell do you tell the sex of a table? Bwrdd (table) is masculine but cadair (chair) is feminine. Wonder what goes on in our dining room after the lights go out? Do they breed and produce a sideboard?
But that’s only Soft Mutation, there are Aspirate and Nasal mutations as well (like fy Nhadau in the anthem which comes from Tad meaning father) where both masculine and feminine words change after pronouns – and the adjectives change to match as well! OK, I’m beginning to lose it now. I wish I’d never asked. But how hard can it be when there are 3 year olds west of Brecon who can speak fluent Welsh? And apparently sheep dogs respond to Welsh commands! So don’t shout ‘Stay’ to a collie in Llandovery if it’s got hold of your leg!
Anyway, with my new found knowledge, I go back to choir practice. Shirley Ann gets onto the podium, adjusts her glasses and when we don’t shut up on the first request, or even the second, she frowns, looks over the top of her glasses and gives a loud shout of “Nawr te! Hisht!” that reminds me of my Nan telling me off when I was a lot younger – no change there then. Know fear, lads. Know fear.
“Right, we’ll do ‘Yfory’ to start. Remember, tenors it’s Gweithio ”. Pause – “No we won’t, we’ll do ‘May You Always Have a Song’ instead” just as some of us have got our copies out. “And we’ll have a little stand”. LOVIN IT! Not only do you get to sing in this choir, but you get free aerobic classes as well! I really don’t understand why some of us groan. Perhaps we’d prefer a lie down. I’m glad we don’t have big stands!
We sing it while Shirley Ann helps us with the words and timing. “ Da iawn! That was really nice boys (have you taken a good look at us lately?) especially the tenors. No, really. But you still have to do that last part again, it wasn’t quite right”. Don’t we know it. I don’t think Shirley Ann’s got anything against the baritones and basses, I think she says it to encourage the tenors. Anyway, typical teacher – you’ll keep on doing it again and again until you get it right! “Some of you are still singing ‘song’ when you should be singing ‘love’! You have to watch me!” I do, I do, honest! If we can’t get English ones right, what chance do we have with Welsh?
“Let’s do ‘O Gymru’ now. Are you alright with the solo bit, Tommy? Ready, Steve bach. And we’ll have another little stand. ” OK, OK the first stand was fine but you’re beginning to wear us out now, not to mention the dizziness and vertigo.
We sing it with such passion, verve and gusto that for once Shirley Ann is stunned into silence. Eventually she says again “Da iawn! Bendigedig ! That was wonderful boys, really good. I love coming to this choir. You’re such a tonic, you really are. You don’t realise how good you are! Your diction is fabulous.” At this point some of us are beginning to blush. It’s not often we get a ’Bendigedig’ even if we don’t know what it means, but it must be good (I don’t think she literally means we’re adorable or blessed, though).
“Now let’s do ‘Tydi a Roddaist’ shall we? No, I meant ‘Ti y dy Ddoniau’. They might sound the same to you, but believe me, they’re totally different”. Well, that’s Shirley Ann for you, but what would we do without her? Ryn ni’n dy garu di. What’s this – verbs mutate as well – caru to garu? Then my mate says, “But Welsh is different in North Wales, it’s more literal and some words are different”. Oh well! Let’s get to grips with Myfanwy – is she a close friend or not? Makes a change from Delilah!
Lyn (Baritone, maybe)
The Winners of the Sharkbite Golf Challenge held by the Choir Birdie Boys at the Marriott St Pierre resort, the Haywain team have had their names engraved on the shield trophy for the event. Ron Powell Builders team who won it in 2014 have also had their names engraved on it.
The Golf Challenge raised over £1100 for our charities and it is hoped to repeat this annually. Many thanks to Timpson’s at Tesco in Spytty Retail Park for their generous assistance with the trophy and engraving, it’s greatly appreciated.
The photos show the trophy and the presentation by Alyn Dawe, the captain of the Birdie Boys. Many thanks to Tony Griffiths, Leon Jones and all the supporters and golfers for the hard work they put into making this a hugely successful event. Look out for notification of next year’s challenge.
On Saturday 14th December about 60 members of Caldicot Male Voice Choir were pleased to make their way down a rain and windswept M5 to sing once again at the magnificent Temple Methodist Church in Taunton. This time the request came from the Rotary Club of Taunton to help raise funds for the Children’s Hospice South West. Our previous visit was in April 2013 to support the Mayor’s appeal for Leukaemia and Lymphoma research.
Following introductions by Rachel Davies, President and host Ian Ramus both of Taunton Rotary, conducted by Shirley Anne James throughout the choir opened proceedings with an eclectic mix of Llanfair a rousing Welsh hymn, May You Always Have a Song, Somewhere Out There from the animated film ‘An American Tail’ and What Would I do Without my Music.
We were then treated to wonderful soloists from local schools and colleges including Eyra Norman, an incredibly talented 15 year old soprano from Wells Cathedral School who delightfully sang ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade by Schubert and contrasted with ‘I feel pretty’ by Bernstein. Eyra was followed by 15 year old, Queen’s College bass baritone Gregory Steward skilfully singing ‘This nearly was mine from South Pacific. The first half soloists contribution was completed by ‘The step sister’s lament ‘ from Cinderalla’ amusingly and tunefully sung by 12 year old Ellen Steward of Queen’s College in full musical costume.
The Choir’s next two sets either side of the interval included many of its favourites including Laudamus, recently introduced A Miner’s Song by Dan and Laura Curtis and California Dreamin’. Anthem from Chess included a new organ contribution by Stephen Berry as well as piano accompaniment from John Nicholson. The choir was delighted to include, as an addition to its programme ‘Morte Criste – When I survey the Wondrous’ Cross at the request of Taunton Rotary Club which also included organ accompaniment from Stephen. The choir’s versatility was amply demonstrated to an appreciative audience with contrasting pieces such as the Lord’ Prayer by Malotte, Yfory – tomorrow in Welsh, The Pearl Fishers’ Duet by Bizet and American Trilogy made famous by Elvis Presley.
A fourth soloist Georgia Blackwell, a 19 year old formerly of Taunton School but now studying at Bristol University further enhanced the evening with ‘Vedrai Carino’ from Don Giovanni and ‘One More Kiss’ from Follies. All the soloists were accompanied by Andrew Carter who, now retired has performed in many European venues from Moscow to Gibraltar. Eyra returned to the stage to conclude the soloists performances with ‘Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio , an extremely challenging piece by Mozart and wonderfully demonstrated her vocal talents with her rendition of the fast moving ‘Ching-a ring chaw’, by Copeland.
How could we follow those performances, but we met the challenge with Rachie (I bob yn sy’n ffyddlon’) the tune of which is often sung ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ in English, the many recorded 2002 hit ‘You Raise Me Up’ which truly lifted the audience even higher, Eli Jenkins’ Prayer from under Milk Wood sung to Troyte’s chant (who incidentally came from near Taunton) and finalising with the fast moving, foot tapping pace of ‘Rhythm of Life’ which brought many of the audience to its feet in appreciation.
The evening performances finalised (many of the audience joining in) with ‘Mae hen wlad fy nhadau’, the Welsh National Anthem sung by the choir to the arrangement by Dr. Haydn James, musical director of the Welsh Rugby Union.
The wonderful evening closed with votes of thanks and presentations to all contributors by Rachel Davies including what must be the largest bouquet of flowers ever presented to Shirley Anne – thoroughly deserved for a night of tremendous hard work both at practice in our Choir hall in Caldicot and on the evening.
Many thanks to Ian Ramus for organising and hosting the concert at Taunton and to Graham Joll also of Taunton Rotary club for arranging the design and printing of the splendid posters, fliers and concert programme. We mustn’t forget the members of The Inner Wheel for providing the appreciated refreshments during the interval.
Video clips of some of the performances of the evening can be found on You-tube. Just enter Caldicot Male Voice Choir on the search bar of You-tube to see them. Alternatively click on the link ‘Pearl Fisher’s Duet’.
Following the retirement of long standing President Richard Evans last June, the Choir has invited Michael Shere-Massey to be our next Choir President and we are pleased to announce that following a visit to us last Thursday 29th October, Michael has accepted our invitation and is now the new Choir President.
Originally from Devon, Michael joined the Royal Air Force at 16 years of age and spent 28 years specialising in Air Radar and telecommunications rising to the rank of Senior Engineering Officer. Now a qualified commercial pilot, his RAF career included several postings including Northern Ireland and many years in Africa and elsewhere on humanitarian and military missions.
On his retirement from the RAF in 1986 he moved, with his wife, Sue and two daughters to Portskewett to join the International Communications Company, Mitel as a Technical Lecturer before being appointed head of Sales Support and Major Account Management. Since then he has been employed by Philips as Major Accounts Manager for British Steel and the BBC among others. Followed by employment with GEC Plessey he now runs his own Technical Consultancy with clients across Europe and the Middle East.
Now partially retired he is secretary to two Masonic Lodges and has recently been promoted to Provincial Grand Officer. As a former RAF reservist he served as Adjutant in the ATC based in Caldicot. Apart from flying, his other interests include classic car renovation, clay pigeon shooting and computing. Michael also has an Open University degree in Psychology.
We are sure that we have made the right choice in choosing Michael to be our next President. He has a hard task in following on from Richard but we are confident that he will, together with his enthusiasm to take on this role, bring new skills, expertise and energy to our choir with his obvious experience and talents.
Welcome to our Choir, Michael and we would not only thank you for accepting our invitation but wish you every success and enjoyment in what we hope will be a long and happy relationship with us.
Get a table at the choir hall Table Top Sale on November 7th for only a fiver and sell your unwanted items. Cost is £5 and the poster gives all the details. You can come along on the day and pick up a bargain in time for Christmas.
All proceeds go to our fund raising efforts to aid the Sparkle Appeal which helps disadvantaged children enjoy the things that other children enjoy and to help to buy a new bed for Annalese Gosling, a Caldicot toddler who suffers from the crippling and incurable disease FOP.
The Table Top Sale raised a total of £386 towards our appeal.
As part of a busy week, about 50 choristers, dressed in their casual uniform, took time out to travel to Tondu Rugby Club in Aberkenfig to entertain a group of Australian tourists, here for the Rugby World Cup. The very appreciative group of Rugby enthusiasts and their wives were treated to an opening of ‘Advance Australia Fair’, the Australian National Anthem before being given a taste of Welsh culture by our singing of Welsh favourites, Rachie, Llef, Yfory and O Gymru and of course Mae hen wlad fy nhadau, the Welsh National Anthem.
The varied programme, conducted throughout by Siân Hatton and accompanied by John Nicholson also included the romantic ‘Let it be me’ by the Everley Brothers as well as ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love with you’ made famous by Elvis Presley. The choir followed up with a rendering of ‘Somewhere Out there’ from the film American Tail, ‘Eli Jenkins Prayer’ and the spiritual uplifting song ‘Ride the Chariot’ in which Siân Hatton and David Gould were soloists. The programme also included ‘A Miner’s Song’ appropriately because the 14th October 2015 was the 100th anniversary of the mining disaster at Senghennyd near Caerphilly in which over 450 miners, men and boys perished.
The Choir were equally delighted by the presence of rugby legend Dr. JPR Williams, the Wales and British Lions fullback in the fabulous Welsh team of the seventies who is a member of Tondu Rugby club and a singer in Cowbridge Male Choir; Gareth Chilcott, former Bath prop forward and capped 14 times for England and also forward Stan Pilecki who was the first Australian of Polish descent to be capped for Australia. Stan well remembers playing on the 1983 tour of this country. He was the first player to play over 100 times for Queensland Reds and gained 18 caps for Australia. Also listening to us and making the introductory speech was John Ryan, a former player, team manager and life long member of Queensland Rugby Football club.
The choir continued the evening with the traditional ‘Afterglow’ which delighted the tourists and the members of the Rugby Club as they all enjoyed a generous buffet supplied by Tondu RFC.
Left click on images to enlarge.
On a beautiful, sunny, autumnal day, Saturday 10th October, Caldicot Male Voice Choir was delighted to sing at the wedding of chorister Gareth Thomas and his wife Davina’s son, Owain Rhodri Thomas to Alison Reeder, a charming American lady from Charleston, South Carolina in the USA, at the Baptist Church in the picturesque square in Magor.
Members of Alison’s family, including her parents Ruth Ellen and Franklin Reeder and brother Justin travelled to Magor to witness their daughter Alison marry Owain. Prior to the ceremony, the congregation and families were treated to the Choir singing from the church balcony, ‘American Trilogy’ and ‘Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love’ made famous by Elvis Presley and the popular Welsh song ‘Yfory’ which means ‘Tomorrow’. The Choir was conducted by Musical Director Siân Hatton and accompanied by Stephen Berry.
The wedding ceremony, presided over by church minister, Rev. Linda Crebin was preceded by Justin’s reading of ‘I like you’, a humorous, but apt and poignant poem by Sandol Stoddard Warburg
I like you because
When I tell you something special,
You know it’s special,
And you remember it
A long, long time.
If you want to read more of this poem click on the link: ‘I Like You’.
During the ceremony, the choir delightfully sang ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ to the arrangement of American composer, Malotte and afterwards during the signing of the Register it sang ‘Somewhere Out There’ from the Stephen Spielberg cartoon ‘An American Tail’ and finally the Everley Brother’s ‘Let it be me’. Including the singing of the hymn ‘Bread of Heaven’ sung to the tune ‘Cwm Rhondda’, the mix of music was certainly an American-Welsh eclectic blend which the congregation thoroughly enjoyed.
The choir’s final contribution was given by accompanist Stephen Berry’s presentation on the Church organ of the music from ‘The Legend of Zelda’ as the Bride and Groom left the Church. Stephen commented afterwards that in fifty years of playing at weddings, this was the first time he had ever been asked to play the wedding processional music from a Nintendo video game. ‘It’s dangerous to go alone’, according to the game.
The choir would like to congratulate and wish Owain and Alison every good fortune, health and happiness in their lives together.
On Saturday 3rd October, approximately sixty Caldicot choristers made their way down the M4 to the dreamily spired, historic University City of Oxford to perform at the magnificently decorated Oxford Town Hall with Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir. This is the third occasion that the choir has sung at this fabulous venue, the first being with Oxford Welsh in 1980 and the other two at the invitation of The Oxford Welsh Society.
Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir was the guest choir at our own Gala concert in Caldicot recently and we were pleased to accept their invitation to sing with them at their Annual Concert in the splendid Town Hall. Following afternoon rehearsals, Caldicot took their place at the front in the escalating stage area to join in with Oxford in combined presentations, conducted by Siân Hatton and accompanied by Stephen Berry and John Nicholson, of Welsh favourites ‘Rachie’, ‘Yfory’, and ‘Gwahoddiad’ not to mention finalising the set with a roof shaking Morte Criste – ‘When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross’. The concert was complemented by delightful appearances of guest duo, sopranos Sophie Pullen and Charlotte Tetley who thrilled the audience of over 300 with excerpts from Bacarolle from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, Habanera from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ and ‘Prendero fuel brunettino’ from Mozart’s ‘Cosi fan Tutti’.
Returning to the stage, Caldicot re-opened choral proceedings with their new renditions of ‘A Miner’s Song’, ‘California Dreamin’ and the famous all-time favourite Welsh Hymn arranged by Mansell Thomas, ‘Llef – O Iesu mawr’. We believe that Caldicot Male Voice Choir is the first single male voice choir to sing ‘The Miner’s Song’. Written by Dan and Laura Curtis who recently heard it sung for the first time at our Gala concert. It was originally recorded by over three hundred Welsh contributors to help raise funds to erect the National Miner’s Memorial in the Universal Memorial Gardens in Senghenydd. The choirs then combined to sing a rousing rendition of ‘O Gymru’ in which Oxford’s Bob Edwards sang the solo part.
Following the interval, the choirs exchanged places with Oxford at the front to sing their own pieces, conducted by Helen Swift and accompanied by Tim Croston, of ‘Let all men sing’, ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘If we only have love’ before combining with us to sing ‘She’, made famous by Charles Aznavour. Sarah and Charlotte then took to the stage to once again delight us all with the famous ‘Flower Duet, Delibe from Lakme’, ‘Je veux vivre’ from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet and the amusing, flirtatious duet ‘We are women’ from Bernstein’s Candide.
The finale consisted of the combined choirs thrilling the audience with ‘American Trilogy’ with organist Andrew Patterson, ‘Anthem’ (from Chess), the love song ‘Let it be me’ made famous by the Everly Brothers and finally both choirs raced through the foot tapping, almost tongue tripping ‘Rhythm of Life’ from the musical Sweet Charity.
Following well deserved presentations to the musical directors and accompanists of both choirs, to Sophie, Charlotte and Andrew the proceedings closed with ‘Hen wlad fy nhadau’, the Welsh National anthem.
The concert was arranged to help the Oxfordshire Fund for Music which aims to provide financial support to enable young musicians to have free instrument tuition.
This will be a fabulous night for anyone who likes big band sounds from the forties and fifties or modern jazz smooth dance. The Chepstow Community Big Band give out a fabulous sound which will be enjoyed by all.
This is the first big event to be put on by the Choir’s new fund raising committee so let’s all give it our full support. What else would you be doing on a Friday night? A fully licensed bar is available until 11-30. Please do not bring your own drinks onto the premises. Our bar prices are very reasonable.
Tickets are only £5 and will be available at the door.