Category Archives: 2021

Choir Compere Dean Powell launches new book

A good friend of Caldicot Male Voice Choir, Dean Powell whom you may remember has compered a number of our concerts at the Leisure Centre in Caldicot has recently published a book relating the intense rivalry and history of Male Voice choirs in Victorian times in South Wales.


As well as his choral singing talents and compere abilities Dean is a well respected historian, particularly of Rhondda Valley history and is probably the leading authority on the history of Dr William Price of Llantrisant. Dean was also largely responsible for the restoration of the medieval Guildhall in Llantrisant which is well worth a visit.

Rival Welsh choirs and their fight to gain Queen Victoria’s royal seal of approval is revealed in this enthralling new history book celebrating the rich culture of a “land of song”. “A Royal Choir For Wales” by historian Dean Powell gives a fascinating insight into how nineteenth-century Wales evolved to become a heartland of choral singing against the background of heavy industry and hardship.


Galvanised by a strong musical and religious intensity, the valleys became volatile melting pots of migrant people who collectively united in song and created a growing new working-class culture. Dean Powell explained: “We’d be mistaken for believing that the Welsh choral tradition was simply a peaceful pastime born out of religious revivals which saw choirs performing in harmony with one another”.

“There was a strong competitive element due to the growth of the eisteddfod movement. Emotions ran wild and crowds followed their home choirs by mobilising armies of supporters with inflamed passions and an eagerness to win”.


“Choral competitions drew crowds of thousands of supporters – far more than international rugby games of the period – and this musical fanaticism caused heated encounters, brawls in the street, gambling behind the scenes and attempts to sabotage performances.”
The new book explores the role conductor Griffith Rhys Jones “Caradog” played when his 400-strong South Wales Choral Union triumphed at the Crystal Palace.


The victory inspired the formation of two prominent male voice choirs from the Rhondda Valleys who battled for glory both on and off the competitive stage.

William Thomas and his Royal Welsh Choir and the neighbouring Rhondda Glee Society led by Tom Stephens dominated the eisteddfod arena.
Dean added, “During the final decades of the nineteenth century the conductors became national heroes and arch-rivals. “They led their singers on world-wide tours the likes of which we’d never seen before, but their greatest desire was to win the approval of the Queen Empress of Great Britain and her Colonies. The question is who would win the crown?”

Filled with rare images and personal memorabilia collected by the descendants of the conductors, this is the first time the majority of them have appeared in print.


Priced £12.99, copies of “A Royal Choir for Wales” are available by contacting dean@llantrisant.net

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Caldicot Choir Remembers Zulu King

A tribute article of King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu Nation following his death on 12th March was published in the South Wales Argus Grassroots section on 22nd March. Caldicot Male Voice Choir sang for him at the special pageant at Brecon Barracks on July 21st 2019 to mark the reconciliation of the UK with the Zulu Nation after the Zulu War of 1879.

Photos by Colleen Gauntlett

THE FULL ARTICLE

On July 21st 2019 Caldicot Male Voice Choir was privileged to be invited to take part in a special pageant at Brecon Barracks to celebrate the reconciliation between the United Kingdom and the Zulu Nation of the ‘Zulu War’ of 1879.

This war was infamous for the Battle of Isandhlwana where over 1400 British troops were killed and for the defence of Rorke’s Drift by 24th Regiment of Foot South Wales Borderers later the same day.

Caldicot Male Voice Choir has sung on a number of occasions for Royalty but none more unusual than this occasion to perform for King Goodwill Zwelithini, the King of the Zulu Nation alongside his bodyguard of Zulu warriors and accompanied by the Band of the Royal Welsh Regiment conducted by Major Dennis Burton. In attendance were his wives, Princes and Princesses. At the Beating Retreat Ceremony, the Choir sang the three National Anthems of the Nations involved, Mae hen wlad fy Nhadau, N’kosi Sikeleli Africa and God Save the Queen.

Sadly we have just learned of the passing of King Goodwill in hospital in Nataal, South Africa on 12th March at the age of 72. It is believed that he died from diabetes related complications.

The Choir will remember meeting him at this special occasion for many years and a similar photograph to the one above is proudly hanging from the wall of the Choir Hall. The Choir has passed on its condolences and sympathy to his family and the Zulu Nation. 

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Not all Choristers are grey haired, elderly Gentlemen

ANNUAL CONCERT 2019

It was reported in January that an active member of Caldicot Male Voice Choir, Bill Nash had remarkably reached his 98th birthday. Since then two members, Dave Kirton and Peter Hanks celebrated their 78th birthdays on the same day January 16th.

To many this would seem to perpetuate the myth that being in a Male Voice Choir is a pastime dedicated solely for grey haired, elderly gentlemen.  What is forgotten is that Bill joined his first Male Voice Choir at the age of 14 and that Dave, like so many of the Choir members joined the Choir over 30 years ago when they were in their forties or even younger.  In common with Bill Nash, current active choristers John Evans, Peter Heslop and Dave Gould have each completed over 50 years’ service and joined when they were in their twenties. Current vice chairman, Leon Jones joined 3 months before his 18th birthday and has completed over forty three years’ service.  Baritone Liam Evans at 25 and Craig Howells, also 25 are the Choir’s youngest. Craig joined in 2013 at 18 years of age and proudly followed his grandfather Owen and father Anthony into the Choir.

To further dispel the myth, in common with most Male choirs, Caldicot has a high proportion of choristers who are less than forty years old and some who are less than 30.  The Choir presents those who have served more than 25 years with a certificate and silver badge when they achieve this milestone. To date, and since the Choir was formed in 1963 there have been 37 recipients although sadly some are no longer with us.

Caldicot Male Voice Choir is not alone in being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and has not been able to meet since it returned from its tour of Armagh in March 2020. This sensible approach has been taken to protect vulnerable members of the Choir from the effects of the virus and fortunately only a few caught the virus and these are on the way to a full recovery (there has been at least one case of hospitalisation reported in December).

The latest news is that most of the over seventies and many of the over sixties have now had either the Pfizer or Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine with almost no side effects apart from a temporary stiff arm  However, most had the injection in their non-drinking arm so their lives were not affected too much.

However, loneliness, depression and a sense of loss has hit a number of choristers who are dreadfully missing the comradeship of being in a Choir and it is hoped that when the vast majority have had the vaccine it will be able to meet again shortly and begin to sing not only in unison but in restored harmony.

The Choir would urge all of you, when invited to take up the vaccination to help save yours and others lives and bring an early end to this terrible situation.

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Choristers share the same birthday

Today, 9th January 2021 is a double birthday celebration in Caldicot Male Voice Choir. Bill Nash celebrates his 98th birthday today and shares it with 73 year old 2nd Tenor Mike Thurman. On behalf of the Choir may I wish them both a very happy birthday.

Bill’s celebration of his 98th birthday today surely must make him the oldest male voice chorister in Wales, if not the U.K. still actively and regularly singing.

Jo Barnes of the South Wales Argus has been kind enough to print my article and photos of Bill in a full page spread yesterday Friday 8th January

Until Corona virus restrictions were imposed, bottom bass Bill would make the journey to practice from the centre of Bristol to Caldicot twice a week aided by his family and is still able to make it to many of our concerts. I’m told that he still enthusiastically practices his song parts from his living room and is looking forward to returning to the Choir hall practices as soon as the Choir is able to practice again. We are all looking forward to that day.


Bill was born in Llanharan in 1923 to later sing, at the age of 14 with his father and brothers in Llanharan Male Voice Choir and attend Cowbridge Grammar School from where he left at 16 years old to serve in the RAF before and during the second World War as an aircraft fitter. He served in North Africa, Italy, South Africa and other countries before moving to Gloucester after the war and then to Bristol in 1952 to work many years for the British Aircraft Corporation and where he has lived since. He sang in Redland Male Choir in Bristol for many years before joining Caldicot Male Voice Choir in 1970.

He has, in his long history of over 80 years of male choral singing, sung in every section of a male voice choir. An incredible, probably unequalled record.

One of the many highlights of his almost 50 years in Caldicot Male Voice Choir was to be presented to HRH Prince Charles when the choir was honoured to sing at the Prince’s celebration of his 70th birthday at Buckingham Palace in May 2018.

Bill was presented with a well deserved Lifetime Achievement award and conferred as an Honorary Vice President of Caldicot Male Voice Choir at a special presentation by John Griffiths AM and Musical Director Siân Hatton at the Annual Concert in April 2014.

In 2019 Bill was awarded a tribute plaque and made an honorary member of the prestigious D M Davis Welsh Male Voice Choir of Jackson Ohio, USA and this was presented to him at his home in July 2020.

Bill has an incredible knowledge and expertise as a chorister and is always willing to pass on his experiences to younger and new members of the choir, not to mention our musical team.

The Choir would be interested to learn of any chorister who is of Bill’s age or older who is still active as a singer in any Welsh Male Voice Choir

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