Monthly Archives: January 2024

Choristers thrilled to revisit Catbrook after a 6 year absence

Caldicot Male Voice Choir has sung in many prestigious events and venues including International Sports Stadia, The Royal Albert Hall, (to which it will return on April 27th this year), huge Cathedrals and Churches and Concert Halls throughout this country, the USA, Canada and across Europe, not to mention the National Eisteddfod stage, but few of these compare to the wonderful welcome and enthusiasm for our singing given by the villagers of Catbrook, high up and hidden in the dense forests of the Wye Valley. Venues such as these remind us of the humble roots of the great tradition that is Welsh male voice singing.

After an absence of 6 years due to Covid restrictions, the choristers wound their way on two buses through the long and winding forest roads (again in the dark and rain) to arrive at the small Catbrook Memorial Hall to entertain an audience of about fifty villagers who always greet the choir with a warm and encouraging welcome.

Conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson, the programme not only included songs such as ‘Anfonaf Angel’ and ‘Benedictus’ written by Robat Arwyn but also included contrasting performances of ‘African Prayer’, ’16 Tons’, ‘A Miner’s Song’ by Dan and Laura Curtis, ‘Yma O Hyd’ by Dafydd Iwan, ‘Cwm Rhondda’ of course and ‘Bring Him Home’, ’76 Trombones’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘This is the Moment’ from various stage shows showing the versatility and variety of the Choir’s singing repertoire. A solo performance was also made by Siân Hatton who recited the humorous two verses of the poem ‘The Lion and Albert’ by Marriott Edgar much to the delight of the enthusiastic audience.

The concert was followed by a traditional ‘Afterglow’ in which choristers and the audience are entertained by a mix of unaccompanied choir singing led by John Nicholson

Once again, the choir left to the plaintive strains of ‘On the bus, on the bus’, with the hope that it will not be another six years before it will return.

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Choir delighted and thrilled to appoint talented accompanist Olivia Dance at the start of 2024

Following the retirement of hugely missed Stephen Berry in late 2022 and choir accompanist since 2007 it has been a long and difficult effort by the choir to find a comparable replacement . Tribute must not only be paid to Stephen for his dedicated service but also to John Nicholson who has done a terrific job in holding the fort in difficult circumstances since Stephen’s retirement.

However, at the end of the year the choir was incredibly fortunate that Olivia Dance, daughter of chorister Nick Dance who lives locally in Caldicot, accepted the offer to become the principal accompanist for the choir. Together with her father she has thoroughly enjoyed joining in with the choir’s activities since Nick first joined in January 2023.

Olivia was born in Oxford and began piano lessons at the age of eight. Performing in festivals, competitions, and concerts during her childhood inspired her to pursue music.

After completing her school studies at Henley Sixth Form College, Olivia was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Northern College of Music under the tutelage of Professor Stephen Savage.

Whilst at the college, she won the Bessie Cronshaw/Frost Brownson Song Cycle Pianist Prize and was awarded the Clifford Hartley Prize for showing great commitment to her studies.

Olivia was fortunate to be mentored by James Bailleau, Julian Jacobson, Kathryn Stott, Leslie Howard, Phillipe Cassard and Stephen Hough. Olivia gained a B. Mus. 1st Class Honours and in 2020, she graduated from the RNCM with a Master’s degree in Music. In the same year, she returned to her family home in Wales where she currently teaches a broad array of piano students, works with St Briavels school choir, accompanies Serenata Ladies Choir, and performs for care home residents and people living with dementia as part of outreach projects run by Wye Valley Music in Monmouthshire.

She enjoys performing a wide range of musical styles, has an ongoing love of art song, and indulges in jazz when she can. Some performance highlights include an appearance at the Wigmore Hall in London performing Mark-Anthony Turnage’s ‘Two Elegies Framing a Shout’, a concert of Norwegian song in Bergen, Norway, and a performance at Gloucester Cathedral in conjunction with the Three Choirs Festival.

Olivia has played for the choir on a number of occasions in 2023 and to a very warm, welcoming reception was thrilled to accompany the choir as a full time member of the team of Musical Director Sian Hatton, Assistant Musical Director Shirley Anne James and fellow accompanist John Nicholson at its first rehearsal of 2024 on January 8th. Olivia, together with the choristers are all looking forward to a long lasting and happy association with Caldicot Male Voice Choir.

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