Photos by Colleen Gauntlett. Left click on images to enlarge.
Those of you who go to Caldicot Leisure Centre in Mill Lane cannot fail to see Caldicot Male Voice Choir’s Choir Hall with it’s bright red badge above the entrance. This magnificent hall was opened in 1996 through funds raised by the choristers and grants at that time. To celebrate the opening, three local choirs, Risca, Cwmbran and Blaenavon were invited to Caldicot to perform in a special inaugural Gala concert. The start of the tradition of annual Gala concerts.
Caldicot was thrilled that 22 years years later, Risca Male Choir accepted the invitation to return to perform in Caldicot Male Voice Choir’s 22nd Gala concert on September 8th at the Leisure Centre where the capacity audience of over 400 was presented with one of the best Gala performances for many years. Introduced by the professional performance throughout of compère and host Dean Powell Caldicot, conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by Stephen Berry and John Nicholson and including about 15 who were at the inaugural Gala, opened proceedings with resounding ‘Men of Harlech’ to be followed by varying styles of ‘Mansions of the Lord’, haunting ‘Tangnefeddwyr’, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ by Malotte, spiritual ‘Ride the Chariot’ and the premiere performance by Caldicot of ‘The Prayer’, a beautiful song much of which is sung in Italian.
Risca followed, conducted by new Musical Director Tomos Gwyn and accompanied by Alison Thomas with a range of song styles including vigorous ‘Gloria’, the beautiful Rudyard Kipling inspired ‘Seal Lullaby’, spiritual ‘Goin’ up a Yonder’ to be followed by tributes to the First World War dead, the poem ‘In Flander’s Fields’ and the poem by Robert Binyon ‘For the Fallen’ with the words ‘They shall not grow old…..’, Risca choir included about ten members who were part of the first Gala Concert.
Taking to the stage after the interval, Risca presented us with contrasting styles of the famous ‘O Danny Boy’, rhythmic ‘Gonna Rise Up Singing’, ‘Hiraeth’ expressing the virtues of the particularly Welsh emotion of longing. Included was the soft, Welsh lullaby ‘Si Hei Lwli ‘Mabi’, Anfonaf Angel and patriotic ‘O Gymru’, extolling the virtues of Wales.
Showing off the range of songs sung by Welsh male choirs, Caldicot presented a varied second half programme of ‘African Prayer’ based on the South African National Anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’I Africa but sung in both Xhosa and Welsh, a now firm favourite the memorable words of ‘A Miner’s Song’, a foot tapping copy of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ‘Sixteen Tons’, the tragic love story of Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn and finally the most famous of all Welsh hymns, ‘Cwm Rhondda’.
Both Choirs combined on stage for about 100 voices to sing the famous all time favourite hymn, ‘When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross’ sung to the tune ‘Morte Criste’ as a finale. Amazing!
There is no doubt that the audience, including special guests Jessica Morden MP, Peter Clarke, chairman of Monmouthshire County Council and councillors Alan Davies, David Evans, Tony Easson, Jim Higginson representing Caldicot wards, Rev. Preben Andersen of Caldicot Methodist Church, Dr Haydn James, musical director of the Welsh Rugby Union and Wales and British Lions Rugby legend Gerald Davies in his capacity as Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire, was absolutely thrilled with the evening of tremendous Male Voice Choir singing by two of Wales’ leading choirs. A night to remember!
Many thanks to all who helped in the creation and organisation of such a wonderful concert.