Photographs by Colleen. Left click on images to enlarge.
On Saturday 1st June, for the sixth time since the turn of the millenium, on a glorious start to the summer, the choir travelled the 120 miles to the historic ‘Jewel in the Hampshire crown’ of Romsey. The centre-piece of this beautiful town and burial place of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, is the spectacular 10th century, former Benedictine Abbey which played host to us joining old friends, the Michelmersh Silver Band for a joint concert as part of the choir’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. The band has recently been promoted to the Championship section of the National Brass Band Championships for the first time in its history, so it is a great privilege and pleasure for the choir to be invited to perform with them once again in this fabulous setting.
Under the soaring vaulted ceilings of the Abbey, the concert, compered by resident band conductor Roland Wright and conducted under the direction of the band’s Musical Director Melvin White, the Silver Band opened in front of a large enthusiastic audience with an electrifying performance of Fanfare and Choral, Laudes Domini followed by a delightful flugel horn solo of Marianne (Wayne Landen) and then the magnificent Brass Triumphant, written for and often played by the world famous Rhondda Valley Cory Brass Band (now know as the ‘Buy as You View Brass Band’). The choir, bathed in light and conducted by Musical Director Siân Hatton, opened its first presentation of music from around the world with inspiring Welsh hymn, arranged by the legendary Welsh composer Mansel Thomas, Llanfair, contrasted by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band, the 15th century Austrian madrigal ‘Innsbruck’ , ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ (soloist Siân Hatton , conducted by Shirley Ann James) from Disney’s The Lion King and American Trilogy made famous by Elvis Presley. Choir accompanist Stephen Berry was delighted to support on the refurbished Victorian Walker organ, while fellow accompanist John Nicholson provided the piano accompaniment. The opening numbers of both the choir and the band were reinforced by the incredible acoustics afforded by the height and length of the architecturally splendid, pillared knave. Those of us with hair on the back of our necks certainly had it raised!
The first part of the concert concluded with three further pieces from the band including many times recorded New Orleans traditional jazz, Just a Closer Walk (trombone soloist Matthew Curtis), a Soprano Cornet Solo of Demelza (Connie Boler) and vigorous Gaelforce with its stunning percussion parts.
Following the interval, the band re-opened with March O.R.B, Lux Aurumque and Novus Vitae which included a Euphonium solo (Paul Griffiths). This last piece, meaning ‘New Life’ is a world wide premiere by a Brass band and was written by the composer Darren Bartlett for the christening of his nephews. ‘The Choir then rejoined the proceedings by opening its second performance with Protheroe’s arrangement Laudamus, sung in Welsh, romantic Spanish style melody Juanita, You Raise me up made famous by Westlife, a new Queen addition to the programme, ‘Somebody to Love‘ arranged by accompanist John Nicholson, conducted by Shirley Ann James and Freddie Mercury’s solo part sung by Siân Hatton. Tommy Hole then took the solo part of closing song, O Gymru which tells of the virtues of living in Wales and of being Welsh.
The Silver band then re-entered to give spirited performances of Festival arrangement, Light Walk and An Evening Prayer before being joined by the choir to give a fabulous joint rendition of Welsh hymn ‘Gwahoddiad’ (English ‘Invitation’) before the band closed with Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral. Both the Michelmersh Silver Band and the Caldicot Male Voice Choir left the audience in no doubt that they had been privileged to have been part of an incredible festival of the sounds of Brass and Voice.
Choir chairman Leon Jones was delighted to make a presentation of a commemorative 50th Anniversary slate plaque and anniversary choir tie to a surprised Adam Smith, chairman of the Michelmersh Silver Band.
Following the concert, members of the choir and the band retired to the nearby Tudor Swan Inn (now the Romsey Conservative Club), facing the statue of Lord Palmerston, born in the town, for a traditional ‘Afterglow’ where the choir continued to enthusiastically entertain the public with its vociferous, impromptu choral singing. A plaque outside states that two of Cromwell’s soldiers were hanged from the wrought iron sign support above the door. When cries of ‘On the bus, on the bus’ were made, choristers made a hasty retreat in case they fell to the same fate.
Many, many thanks to the Michelmersh Silver Band and all of its supporters for the wonderful welcome, refreshments and hospitality and we hope to meet up with you again at the earliest opportunity.
To find out more about the Michelmersh Silver Band, please click on the link “Michelmersh Silver Band”