Choir sings at Memorial Service to Andrew Merton Jones at Lambourn

The Choir was privileged, humbled and proud to be invited by Helen Pipe to sing at the Memorial Service of her brother Andrew Merton Jones at St Michael and All Angels Church in Lambourn, Berkshire on 15th February 2024.

Andrew was the son of the late Colin Jones, a former chorister who served over 50 years in the choir. Andrew had a great love of horses and as a young man moved to Lambourn to become a stable hand in Lambourn where he lived the rest of his life.

The Memorial Service, presided over by Revd. Julie Mintern and its content were arranged by Andrew himself and he was keen to revive memories of listening to the choir with his father and he specifically asked that the choir sings ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’ conducted by David Gould and ‘Eli Jenkins’ Prayer’ from Under Milk Wood conducted by Shirley Anne James and accompanied on the church organ by John Nicholson. Both pieces were enthusiastically received and appreciated by a full church in attendance.

In the congregation were Andrew’s sister Helen Pipe and his mother Margaret. Helen gave a fitting and moving tribute to her brother by relaying memories of their childhood together. Hymns included ‘Morning has Broken’, ‘Blaenwern – Love Divine, all loves excelling ‘ and ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer’ to the tune Cwm Rhondda, well know to all Welsh Male Choir.

In the words of Revd Julie Mintern the memorial arrangements brought together three families, Andrew’s own in Caldicot, his Lambourn family and the community family of Caldicot represented by Caldicot Male Voice Choir.

Following the service, the choir retired to the George Inn opposite the church to a warm welcome and traditional afterglow singing enjoyed by all who took part.

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Choir Saddened by the Loss of Harry Giblin ‘H’.

Harry shares a laugh with Wynne Evans and Alex Jones at Caldicot Castle in 2016

The Choir was deeply saddened to learn from his partner, Hazel that much loved and respected chorister Harry Giblin, known affectionately as ‘H’ passed away at the University Hospital of Wales Cardiff in the morning of Monday 5th February 2024 at the age of 79.

The choir paid a tribute to Harry with a minute’s silence and the singing of ‘Gwahoddiad’ at practice on Monday.

It was at the concert in Catbrook 6 years ago that he met his partner Hazel to later form a partnership that lasted until his death. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Hazel, his daughter Victoria and both Harry and Hazel’s families and friends at this very sad time.

Harry had been struggling with illness for some time but nevertheless regularly attended practice at the Choir Hall and at concerts; his last, alongside Hazel, was singing Christmas Carols with the choir at The White Hart Inn in Llangybi on December 15th and at the Two Rivers Hotel, Chepstow on December 21st shortly before his admission to the Grange Hospital.

Born in Pillgwenlly, Newport in wartime 1944, Harry led a full and active life including working as a gantry crane driver at the giant Llanwern steelworks before moving on to social work where, following his attainment of University degrees in Social work he rose to a prominent management position providing for the needs of the elderly, particularly in hospital and care homes.

In his youth he was a Rugby player in Newport and he was keen to reminisce his days as a player alongside the likes of International players such as Brian Price, Stuart Watkins, David Watkins of Newport and Wales fame in the sixties and seventies. His Rugby interest continued when he became coach of Caldicot’s Junior Rugby team.

Harry joined the choir in 2015 as a baritone and his first concert was at St. Peter’s Church, Oakford in Devon alongside new choristers Liam Evans, Sam Atkins and Rob Baldwin. Proudly, Harry hardly ever missed a concert or practice since he joined and loved every bit of being in the choir, adding in his words, much joy and happiness to his life.

Harry was a true gentleman and much loved by all the choir. With a cheeky grin, twinkling, mischievous eyes he was always willing to share a joke, pass on an anecdote from his life and partake of a dram or two with his fellow basses and baritones.

He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. Rest in Peace dear friend. Gorffws mewn heddwch.

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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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Choir finalises Christmas programme with its first visit to the Two Rivers Hotel

All dressed up in festive jumpers.

On Thursday 21st December the choir closed its seasonal Christmas programme by making its way to the Two Rivers Hotel for the first time to present the regulars and diners with a selection of Christmas Carols and Songs.

Conducted by Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson the choir included favourites such as ‘Joy to the World’, ‘Casatschok’, the Johnny Mathis favourite ‘When a Child is Born, ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’, ‘Silver Bells’, Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ ‘Little Drummer Boy’ and ‘A Christmas Medley’ which included Jingle Bells as a finale. The patrons were invited to join in to sing alongside the choir with carols ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘O Come all ye faithful’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’.

This was the first time the choir had visited the hotel and hopes to be invited again next year. The carol singing was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone present.

In 2024, as well as its popular Annual and local concerts the choir will be appearing in the Festival of Massed Voices at the Royal Albert Hall on April 27th and returning to St Andrews Church in Harrow in May after an absence of ten years.

Meanwhile Caldicot Male Voice Choir wishes you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda.

The Choir will return to practice on January 8th.

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Choir Returns to Historic White Hart Village Inn

Lyn stood in the middle of the road to take this while Ben looked out for traffic (far left).

Mentioned in the poem ‘Usk’ by T.S. Eliot, the 15th century, family run White Hart Village Inn in Llangybi once owned by Henry VIII and part of his dowry to Jane Seymour, has in its long history echoed to the sound of the chants of Cistercian Monks and to the tramp of Cromwellian army boots. Nothing however has compared to the sounds of Caldicot Male Voice Choir when it turned up to entertain the patrons and diners with its Christmas carolling on Friday December 15th.

Standing with their backs to an ancient 15th century fireplace, complete with a Priest hole’ the choir, conducted by Sian Hatton and accompanied by John Nicholson entertained with a collection of songs and Carols recently performed at its concert with St Briavels School. The programme included ’Joy to the World’; ‘When a Child is Born’; the Christmas hit ‘Silver Bells’ sung by so many including Bing Crosby, Matt Monroe and Perry Como; the ancient carol, ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’, the Russian drinking and dance song ‘Casatschok’, the iconic hit of Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’; a Christmas medley which included ‘Have yourself a Merry little Christmas, ‘A Child is a King’, finalising with ‘Jingle Bells’.

Included was a range of community carol singing, including seasonal favourites ‘O Come all Ye Faithful’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ enthusiastically joined in by regular patrons and visitors alike,

During the break in performances the choir was treated to a fabulous feast of festive refreshments provided by the proprietor, Khaled Shalaby. Many thanks for inviting us and looking after us so well.

The evening was rounded off until time to go with a session of ‘Afterglow’ singing thoroughly enjoyed by all of the late night diners and village regulars.

(I think when T.S. Eliot refers to a white hart he’s talking about a deer behind St Cybi’s Well, not the pub).

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Wonderful Christmas Party for the Children

Group photo of the children in and around the cake.

As a first ever initiative a Christmas party was held for the children and grandchildren of choristers of Caldicot Male Voice Choir on Saturday December 16th in appreciation of the sacrifices the families make by supporting their men as choristers. With two practices a week as well as about 20 concerts and events each year a great deal of time is spent away from their families to practice their hobby.

Weeks of work, thought and effort went into the organisation by Jayne and Rob Stallard and Lyn and Colleen Gauntlett. The party on December 16th provided fun, laughter and joy to the 25 children and their parents and grandparents.

The afternoon included a range of activities which included making cards, calendars and Christmas hats, splat the rat (made by Ron Powell), hit the naughty elf, skittles, face painting by Irene Quelch and ball games. The highlight was when Santa (thank you Stuart Parry but don’t tell the children) paid a visit to hand out appreciated gifts for all the children.

Santa’s visit was followed by copious amounts of party food thoroughly enjoyed by the children and adults alike, finalising with the cutting of a special Christmas cake made and donated by Colleen.

The party was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, children and adults alike, who all expressed a wish to repeat it again next year. Better ask Jayne, Rob, Colleen and Lyn.

Naturally all the balloons were taken home by the children. Many thanks to Ron Powell and Leon Jones for helping to set up and to those parents who helped clear up afterwards.

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Choir hosts St Briavel’s School Choir for Christmas Concert

All very festive at the Choir Hall

Caldicot Male Voice Choir choristers are always thrilled to welcome a local school choir to join in with them to sing a Christmas concert and this year on Monday 11th December it was pleased to welcome the children of St Briavels School to its Choir Hall in Caldicot.

Conducted by Musical Director Sian Hatton, assistant musical director Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson; the choir presented festive favourites; ‘Joy to the World’; ‘Shepherds Watch and Wise Men Wonder’; ‘Mary’s Boy Child’; ‘When a Child is Born’; ‘Silver Bells’; ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’; ‘Casatschok’ with its noisy ending, the iconic classics ‘White Christmas’ and the delightful ‘Little Drummer Boy’.  The Choir’s contribution also included ‘The Carol Singers’, a comical parody of a group of carollers singing so badly they were arrested.

Accompanied by Olivia Dance and led by Charlotte Bishop, the children’s choir performed two parts. The first included; ‘Jingle Bell Rock’; ‘Away in a Manger’ joined in with the men of  Caldicot choir and a piece from the film ‘Nativity’ entitled ‘Sparkle and Shine’ which contained the words ‘Stand back and put your shades on because I’m about to shine’.  Wearing festive ‘shades’ they certainly did!

During the interval the children and choristers were amazed and thrilled that Santa came into the hall and was invited to join in with the choir for the rest of the evening.  Did you know that Santa is a bottom bass.  No surprise there!

The children’s second half performance included ‘Somewhere in my Memory’ from the film Home Alone followed by delightfully singing a capella ‘Shepherds on the Hills’ before finalising with ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’.

Caldicot choir completed its performance with a Christmas Medley in which the children participated on stage to sing ‘Jingle Bells’ enthusiastically joined in by all.

The children’s choir, organised by parents among others, Claire Gilmour, Charlotte Bishop, Caroline Kingston and pianist Olivia Dance has about forty children in its rank, is self-funding, relying on fund raising events and donations and practices after school time at St. Briavels primary school.

Both the men of Caldicot Male Voice Choir and the children thoroughly enjoyed the experience of singing together and both look forward to possibly doing so again next year.

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Choir sings carols for Rogiet Women’s Institute

Caldicot Male Voice Choir is happy to sing at almost any venue, large or small and on the 5th December a number of choristers arrived at the small Church Hall in Rogiet to sing for the ladies of the local Women’s Institute.

Conducted by Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson the choristers entertained the ladies with a repertoire of Christmas songs opening with ‘Joy to the World and following on with ‘Mary’s Boy Child’, ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’, ‘Shepherds Watch and Wise Men Wonder’, the rousing ‘Casatschok, with it’s loud ending. ‘When a Child is Born’, ‘Silver Bells’, ‘Little Drummer Boy’ and finalising with the most sung Christmas song of all time, Bing Crosby’s ‘I’m Dreamin’ of a White Christmas’.

The ladies were delighted to be invited to sing along with the carols ”Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ during the performance.

Afterwards the choir greatly appreciated home made mince pies, sausage rolls and sandwiches while quenching their thirsts with tea and coffees.

A delightful afternoon of singing thoroughly enjoyed by all and the ladies hope to see us again next year.

Another smaller venue in the New Year will be at the Memorial Hall in Catbrook and this will be contrasted with a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London in April.

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Choristers Enjoy Wonderful Christmas Party and Pantomime at the Choir Hall

On the 1st December after months of planning, the Choir Hall played host to the Choir’s Annual Christmas party. Organized by several choristers in a team effort the party featured acts from a Ukelele Band, the Seranata ladies choir from Magor accompanied by Olivia Dance and individual acts from Musical Director Sian Hatton with husband Dave Gould with a hilarious double act rendering of ‘The Green Eye of the Little Yellow Idol’, followed by two songs from Andy Friedman; Matthew Johns with a solo version of Unchained Melody and the Wellerman song sung by Ron Powell in which everyone joined in with the chorus.

Enthusiastic carol singing was led on piano by Assistant Musical Director Shirley Anne James but the main event was a Christmas Pantomime based on a hilarious Robin Hood theme of four acts including a video made at Caldicot Castle and Wentwood Forest in October. Thanks to Leon Jones for operating the projector system.

As well as several songs by the cast during the pantomime, the party was treated to a version of ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ by chorister Stuart Parry.

The story line told of the capture of Robin Hood by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and his gang, his release from captivity in the forest and Robin’s ultimate wedding to Maid Marion.

The evening continued with a raffle and, a game of ‘heads or tails’ and finalised with a humorous rendering of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ which included all the party goers.

A fabulous, enjoyable night was had by all and many thanks to all who helped organise it or took part.

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