Choir returns to Caldicot Methodist Church


Photo by Colleen Gauntlett

Following its recent performances at the Royal Albert Hall and Buckingham Palace in May and more recently in July at Bristol, Caldicot Male Voice Choir gladly returned to home soil to sing at the local Methodist Church in Caldicot to raise funds for the organisation ‘Count Everyone In’ which supports, through the Methodist Church, adults with learning difficulties. The concert was attended by the organisations founders Pete and Christine Winmill from Newbury and was introduced by minister, Rev. Preben Andersen, a keen and enthusiastic supporter of the Choir..

Conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied on piano by John Nicholson Caldicot choir’s concert consisted of many of the pieces sung in Bristol to entertain a welcoming home audience.  The Methodist Church always gives us a warm and appreciative welcome.  As well as Welsh favourites, Rachie, Anfonaf Angel, and Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn, the choir delighted the audience with Shenandoah, With a Voice of Singing, Somewhere Out There, Eli Jenkins’ Prayer and You Raise Me Up, made famous by Westlife and many others in the first part of the concert.

The choir was supported by father and daughter partnership, Gareth and Catrin Edwards.  Catrin delighted us with clarinet arrangements of In ‘Dream’ and ‘Into the West’ composed by Shore from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Calon Lân and Cwm Rhondda while Gareth accompanied his daughter on the church organ.  Later Catrin delighted us further with clarinet arrangements of Wiegenlid (Brahms), Nocturne (Chopin), Ascot Gavotte from My Fair Lady (Lerner and Loewe) and finally The Lord’s My Shepherd (Townsend) while her father Gareth accompanied on piano.  Catrin celebrated her 15th birthday recently and has been learning the difficult clarinet instrument since she was five years old. A pupil of the Welsh medium school Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool she has taken time out from her GCSE exams to play for us at the concert.

Caldicot Male Voice Choir continued its programme in the second part with more Welsh favourites such as Cwm Rhondda,and Gwahoddiad and included A Miner’s Song, Ride the Chariot, the German drinking song Aus der Traube and the Tennessee Ernie Ford hit Sixteen Tons.  The concert finalised with the well known him ‘When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross to the tune Morte Criste in which Oliver Edwards although attending in his role as Mayor of Caldicot, is also a 2nd bass chorister of the choir and was invited to join the choir by Musical Director Siân Hatton.

Rev. Andersen was pleased to later inform us that the concert raised £264 in voluntary contributions for ‘Count Everyone In’.

Choir Sings with touring American Choir

On a blistering July 10th evening Caldicot Male Voice Choir made the short journey over the bridge to the magnificent Bristol’s Staple Hill Methodist Church to join the 35 strong touring Marvin United Methodist Church Chancel Choir from Tyler, Texas, USA.  This choir which included young members of the Bella Voce choir from the same town are touring the south of England over six days.  Before appearing with us they had earlier sung a lunchtime recital at the oldest Methodist Building in the world at the New Room, Bristol. The tour included concerts at Hampton Court Palace, Worcester College, Oxford and finalising at Southwark Cathedral.

Conducted by Musical Director James Broussard, the Texas Choir assembled up the steps behind the altar to give a stunning opening performance of a mix of American Spiritual music in

various styles including Shaker arrangements and all sung amazingly without accompaniment. Their pieces included several thrilling and amazing bass, tenor and soprano soloists from among its number.  This was followed later in the evening, following Caldicot’s two performances by an equally amazing performance.

Caldicot Male Voice Choir, conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson on piano, performed either side of the interval by singing a range of items from its repertoire including Welsh favourites Rachie, Robat Arwel’s arrangement of Anfonaf Angel, Cwm Rhondda, the love story of Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn, Gwahoddiad and the resounding Yr Tangnefeddwyr , the poem by Waldo Williams recalling the wartime bombing of Swansea.  Caldicot delighted the Americans, who had never heard a Welsh Male Voice Choir before, by including Shenandoah, Somewhere Out There from the Spielberg cartoon American Tail and the spiritual Ride the Chariot.  Caldicot’s versatile programme also included A Miner’s Song, composed by Dan and Laura Curtis and the rousing pair Comrades in Arms and Men of Harlech.  The concert concluded with the choir and audience singing Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau from the Gallery.

Caldicot Choir were delighted by the many expressions of praise heaped on them by the American Choir who later joined us at the Staple Hill Oak pub for a taste of British hospitality. This was the third occasion where we have joined with a touring American Choir in recent years.  The previous were at St Peter’s Church Cardiff in 2016 (Tapestry Choir, California) and 2017 (San Jose Symphonic, California) and it looks forward to greeting many more in the future.

The concert was held to raise funds for The St Peter’s Hospice in Bristol and it raised well over £1000 for the charity.

New Chorister Signs up after Fitness Fayre

At the recent Sports and Fitness Fayre at the Choir Hall there was a stall, run by Lyn Gauntlett to promote the choir and its activities.  After chatting to the nearby U3A stall, leaflets were handed out and interest was shown by John Barrow who was given advertising material.

On the following Monday, John turned up to listen to us and said he would be back on Thursday, which he did.  He was so keen to join that he asked if he could take his first voice test so at half time he went into the back room with Stephen Berry and Shirley Anne James, warbled up and own the scales and emerged to the pronouncement that he was a second Bass.

John said to Lyn afterwards, quote ‘I can’t take the smile of my face, one of the best experiences of my life to be part of this choir.  Who would have thought that representing the U3A at the Sports Fayre would lead to a potentially life changing experience?’.  No need to go over the top John, but your enthusiasm is greatly appreciated and we’re sure you will be a major asset to the choir and we wish you a long and happy association with us.

Choir comes home to perform at Caldicot Methodist Church

Following it’s recent successful appearances at the Royal Albert Hall and Buckingham Place in May and its concert on July 10th at Bristol’s Staple Hill Methodist Church with a touring American  Choir from Tyler in Texas Marvin United Methodist Church Chancel Choir), the choir is returning to Caldicot for its first home concert since these prestigious events.

On July 14th the Choir is singing at Caldicot Methodist Church to give a free concert for local residents.  Supported by local talented musicians father and daughter duo Gareth (keyboard) and Catrin (flute) it is sure to be a concert to remember.

The poster says it all.  Entry is free but a donation (minimum suggested £5) to support the work of ‘Count Everyone In’ which supports the education of underprivileged children within the Methodist Church, would be appreciated.

Choir to sing with touring USA Choir



The Poster says it all.

The Marvin Chancel Choir is a 60-member choir that provides music leadership for the 11 o’clock sanctuary service each Sunday morning, as well as for a variety of special services throughout the year. The choir also performs many great choral masterworks at festival seasons and other times, often accompanied by orchestra and featuring outstanding soloists. Members of the Marvin Chancel Choir and Bella Voce Youth Ensemble will be featured in five concerts during a six-day tour of England July 8-16. A highlight will be concerts at Charles Wesley’s New Room, the oldest Methodist chapel in existence. The choir will also present concerts at Hampton Court Palace, Worcester Cathedral at Oxford, Southwark Cathedral and a combined concert with the Caldicot Male Voice Choir in the magnificent Staple Hill Methodist Church in Bristol.

All proceeds will be donated to St. Peter’s Hospice in Bristol.

Andy’s View on meeting the Royals

Many thanks to chorister Andy Friedman for taking the time to write about his experience at Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately there isn’t a photo of Andy available.

Buckingham Palace! We are in London to give a performance at the garden party in honour of Prince Charles 70th birthday. We were chosen to be the Welsh choir to sing at this event and very excited we all are. Special fuss is being made in the media because it is Harry and Megan’s first formal duty since the wedding … and since our performance at the Royal Albert Hall three days ago!

It is not as I had imagined. Singing at the Palace garden party for Charles’ birthday, I saw us on the steps of the entrance to the Palace in front of an intimate group of celebrity champagne quaffers. In my mind’s eye, the happy few would be close to where we would be standing, many stopping their conversation to listen to our singing and staring up at us in rapture.

I am astounded by the size of the neatly clipped grass expanse in front of the palace entrance. I wonder how we will be heard over such a huge open space as we stroll from the security entrance to the grand building itself. This will be a garden party on a scale far beyond that of my commoner’s imagining. And I was even more impressed by the space when it was filled – close to 7,000 people, as rumour had it!

We are waiting in a holding room chomping on a very nice packed lunch: amusing ourselves with chatter about the quality of the sandwiches, the beautifully appointed loos, and to great amusement, the surprise injection into our choir of our own two new female choristers: Penny and Sue. Maurice Penny had been entered on the roster as Penny Maurice. Because the ID did not match the man, he was not allowed through security, at least until phone calls were made. We had to bring two pieces of ID to get through the check point. Another of our choir (who shall remain nameless) arrived with only one piece of identification, a passport. Worse than that, it was not his own. He discovered to his horror that he had brought his partner Sue’s passport. Fortunately after even more phone calls, (s)he was allowed into the grounds. So the Caldicot Male Voice Choir is a mixed choir today.

Eventually we got the word to change into our blazers and greys and marched across the huge grounds to a spot in front of a large tent about ¼ mile away from the stairs from which the royal party eventually looked out on the crowd. The crowd is not of celebrities, again unexpected, but rather representatives of the many causes the Prince of Wales supports as well as his military connections. Between us and the royal party is a palate of crazy colours: Gurkhas in their lively browns, flashy red and white Beefeaters, incredibly tall ushers in black suits who stood out even more owing to the large black stove pipe hats they wore, men and women in kilts, and even a small group of Scots Canadians in green tops and kilts. Ladies dress in all fashions and colours.

Directly in front of us is a large roped off empty semi-circle of grass. Around the outside of that semi-circle is a row of chairs and for several hours people have been sitting there drinking tea and lemonade. By the time we are to sing, the area behind that circle towards the palace is packed. All are standing, craning their necks to see Harry in the distance giving his speech honouring his father and celebrating the charities he has supported over the decades. So when our time finally came, we sang our hearts out to the backs of thousands. The wind did not help our voices to carry forward, Shirl struggled with the sheets of music, Shaun struggled with bits of her outfit, John struggled with the Caldicot stand that fell over. Great professionalism was shown by the choir director team in adversity. I must admit my eyes wandered from our conductor’s hands to the gap in the semi-circle anticipating the Royals to enter through it. They did not appear.

But then it all changed.

After our performance we are ushered into the tent we were standing in front of. A really fantastic tea was provided with great fancy savoury and sweet creations. Still no royalty. But then we noticed a small table in a corner on which was a gleaming gold tea service and lots of glasses of lemonade, barley water or champagne. Clearly for royalty and sure enough eventually they arrived.

7,000 people in the ‘garden’ but only maybe 150 select performers in the tent. Charles and Camilla arrived, had drinks and then wandered amongst us. In the end I think Charles shook hands and spoke to at least half of the people in the tent. It was brilliant. He was gracious and spoke to all with intent and without making anyone feel that he was anxious to move on to the next person. I was struck by his professionalism. The skill of making what he was doing appear natural and, well, easy.

I shook his hand and to try to penetrate the professionalism I commented that as a father it must have made him feel good to have his son compliment him like that. (I wanted to say that I would have been very proud to have my son wax on about my accomplishments while I’m still alive). Harry was effusive on his father’s influence through the hundreds of charities he acted as patron for. Harry also addressed his father as ‘pa’. Charles just said he had told Harry that this event was supposed to be about the causes and charities, not about him. Oh modesty!

I was talking to the Prince with another choir member beside me and we both told Charles we had been singing a lot lately as we were at the Albert Hall just a few days ago. ‘Pa’ said we must be careful not to strain our voices and suggested gargling. Then he asked about our conductor and we said we have two conductors and they are both women and they are both terrific. We all smiled and Charles moved on; after shaking Sue’s hand.




Choir meets Royalty at Buckingham Palace

Photos from Choir members.  Left click to enlarge.


Following on from an incredible weekend in London, which included a performance at the Royal Albert Hall, 65 members of Caldicot Male Voice Choir returned early on Tuesday 22nd May to provide Welsh choral music at Buckingham Palace by singing for Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and newly weds Prince Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at a Garden Party which formed the start of Prince Charles’ celebration of his 70th Birthday on November 14th.

The Prince of Wales invited over 7000 guests who represented organisations of which he is the Patron together with representatives of the Emergency Services, Medical teams and military connections of which he is the Colonel in Chief.As part of the programme which included the Band of the Welsh Guards, The National Pipe Band, The Genesis Gospel Singers, Côr y Bro, a mixed voice choir from London, Caldicot Male Voice Choir entertained the 7000 guests at 4-30pm outside the Royal tea tent, set against the lake.  The choir’s programme, conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson and Siân included of course Cwm Rhondda, Anfonaf Angel, Llanfair, Rachie, Men of Harlech, God Bless the Prince of Wales and as a special inclusion for the honeymoon couple the choir included the romantic Everley Brothers hit, Let it Be Me.

Following our performance and a delicious round of sandwiches, cakes, tea and other treats we were delighted that Prince Charles and his wife Camilla came into the Royal tent to join us and chat to several of he choir members including Siân Hatton (that’s my husband over there said Sian) and Shirley Anne James our two musical directors. The Prince and Camilla congratulated both on the performance and noted that we had appeared at the Royal Albert Hall.  Other choristers spoken to were Andy Friedman, Roger Francis and Garry Keeble who had met the Prince at the opening of the first Severn crossing. ‘That was a long time ago’, commented the Prince.  Moving along the line the Prince and Camilla had a brief chat to a number of choristers,including David Currie, Ron Powell, David Gould, John MacArthur and Lyn Gauntlett.  Among many questions the Prince asked which sections did they sing in and thanked them for their hard work and for coming to his party.  Bass chorister Oliver Edwards was introduced to the Prince as the youngest Mayor of Caldicot Town Council and the thrilled Bill Nash was introduced as probably the oldest, active chorister in Wales at 95 years of age. On departing, the choristers conveyed their thanks for the invitation and wished Prince Charles a very happy birthday.

Choir Appears at the Royal Albert Hall

On the steps of The Albert Memorial at Hyde Park before the rehearsal
Again formed up on the steps of the Albert Memorial just before the concert
The Concert Programme

Photos by Colleen Gauntlett.  Left click on the images to enlarge.


What an incredible occasion!  The culmination of 18 months of hard work practising and learning twenty pieces for this fabulous event.  There were times of despair, thinking that we would never learn all these pieces, some familiar, some totally new to us but in the end we got there by shear determination.

About 60 of Caldicot’s finest joined as the largest single contingent with more than 700 or so other choristers from another 27 choirs across Wales and a few including Mansfield Welsh, Snowdown Colliery Welfare from Kent and Oxford Welsh from England made their way to London to join in the Festival of Song, held only every three years.  Gwent was also represented by Abertillery Orpheus, Beaufort and Pontnewydd Male Choirs,

The Massed choir was conducted by Dr Alwyn Humphreys MBE and accompanied by Caradog Wiliams who appeared at our Choir Hall at our 2017 Annual Concert.  Solo artistes included Magor’s Ffion Edwards and Caldicot choir is proud that it sponsored Ffion to enter the competition and that she was thrilled to appear with us at this year’s Annual concert.

The audience leaped out of their seats to the tremendous, explosive sound of nearly 800 voices opening up with Welsh Hymn, Llanfair, accompanied by the magnificent Royal Albert Hall organ played by Huw Tregellis Williams.  Things calmed down a little with the gentle refrain of Ar Lân y Môr and then back to the finishing crescendo of Stout Hearted Men.

In the programme, this alternation of loud and soft continued throughout with offerings of There is No Death, delightful Anfonaf Angel and Morte Criste conducted by Mair Lewis, musical director of Swansea Male Choir.  Among the more memorable pieces, although how can we forget any of them were Cwm Rhondda, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, the wonderful poem Y Tangnefeddwyr and African Prayer both set to music by Eric Jones who was in the audience.

The whole evening was complemented by wonderful performances from winners of the Geraint Morris Award;  Rhydian Jenkins (2015), Ffion Edwards (2016) and Samantha Oxborough (2017) and completed with the eighteen incredible voices of the Bella Voce Ladies Choir from Pembroke

Exhausted but wonderfully happy, the choir left to return to its hotel for an Afterglow of singing in a crowded lounge to be joined in our version of A Grandfather’s Clock by none other than Alwyn Humphreys himself.  Dai Gould would not give up the baton though.

If you would like to join this incredible choir, please visit our web site or come along to our Choir Hall in Mill Lane, Caldicot on any Monday or Thursday evening.

Choir make live appearance on BBC Wales Today

Photo by Colleen Gauntlett

Prior to our visit to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 22nd May, on the evening before Nicky Smith of BBC Wales, with cameraman Rhodri and sound man Paul came to the choir hall to hear us sing and interview the Choir’s Public Relations Officer, Lyn Gauntlett and Musical Director Siân Hatton live on the television. Prior to that Lyn had to do a live interview on BBC Radio Wales (Afternoon Wales) from the satellite van parked outside.

The introduction to the radio broadcast was a recording of the Choir singing Gwahoddiad to lead into Lyn Gauntlett describing how the choir came to be invited to perform at Buckingham Palace and our reaction to it. Were we excited? Of course we were.

Similarly at the television broadcast, the lead in was the choir singing ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ before Nicky Smith described the choir hall surroundings and how this must be the biggest event in the choir’s history before asking Lyn again how did the invitation come about and how did we prepare for it.  Nicky then moved onto Musical Director Siân to ask which music we swill be singing. The reply was ‘a mixture of Welsh Music and something romantic for Harry and Meghan. Nicky made some closing remarks before the choir broke into ‘Cwm Rhondda’ for the lead out.  Nicky then took the time to stand with the choir for a photograph taken by Colleen Gauntlett.

How did all this come about?  About a week or so before our appearance Lyn e-mailed BBC Wales with a press release of the visit to the Royal Albert Hall and Buckingham Palace but was advised that there would not be much interest because everyone would be wrapped up with the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  However, when it was learned that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be making their first public appearance after the wedding at the Palace, Rebecca John of the BBC e-mailed Lyn to advise that he should send a modified Press Release which he did at 6-00am on Monday morning.  Rebecca then telephoned Lyn at 10-00am to say that BBC Wales would like to come along to the Choir Hall to do a live broadcast for Wales Today evening news.  Time to panic!  Lyn then phoned chairman John Nicholson to ask if he could get some choristers to the hall by 6-15pm.  John pulled out all the stops and in the end 65 choristers turned up together with some wives and partners.

Meanwhile Lyn spent most of the day on the phone to Radio Wales or texting Nicky to arrange the timings and format of the presentation.  These things don’t just happen by themselves.

Anyway it all went off without a hitch at 6-50 pm, the BBC producer was very pleased in an acknowledgement and everyone who has seen the broadcast commented that it went very well and we should be proud of ourselves.  It was later learned thet the item was broadcast again on BBC Wales Today on the following morning.  We didn’t get to see it because we were on the bus to Buckingham Palace.  It is now Saturday and the Choir is still buzzing after the experiences of the past week.  A great time for our Choir.

A Personal perspective of the Royal Albert Hall

Photo by Andy Friedman

Chorister 2nd Tenor Andy Friedman was so moved by the experience of singing at the Royal Albert Hall he has written a piece to relay his feelings of the occasion.  I’ve reproduced it below.  Well done Andy, you’ve expressed all our feelings in this. We’re probably the Christians, Andy and the audience are the Lions!

Andy writes:-

The Royal Albert Hall! Feels like the Roman Coliseum. Are we the gladiators or the lions? Before the concert begins we are bathed in the rippling clamour of a full house, a colossal full house. Those sitting up in the gods seem miles away. And yet soon after the concert begins I feel like I’ve gate crashed a family party in a village community hall in Wales. In spite of the vast space there is a cosy feel to the proceedings.

The compere’s gentle jokes – like he doesn’t know who is playing tonight in the FA cup – is it Swansea? He asks the audience, some laugh, some cheer and some grimace ruefully.  His references to arrangers of some of the pieces we are to sing, who are in the audience and stand to applause. His celebration of the oldest and youngest and most experienced of the choristers who each stand to applause, one introduced as 17 years old tomorrow, causing several in the audience to break into Happy Birthday to which we all join. The compere bringing on the cavalcade of musical directors and assistants of the 20 odd choirs who are performing. The award given to the compere for 30 odd years of being a stage manager first and then compere for 16 years on this his retirement event. The way the soloists are announced, all local Welsh young singers who had won competitions in the past few years and are introduced with the pride of an aged uncle introducing a youngster who had done the family proud.  We are all celebrating this very Welsh culture, 800 Welsh singers and at least one Canadian.

It is a charity event for Prostate Cymru but it was really a celebration of Welsh singing. Twenty eight male voice choirs and 800 massed choristers were belting out half the songs in English and half in Welsh. We sing 20 songs and interspersed are soloists including Magor’s Ffion Edwards and a small female Choir.

Alwyn Humphreys, the conductor is terrific, but challenging. He keeps altering tempo and volume like a kid fooling around with the knobs of an old style radio. I have to watch his hands every second as well as trying not to stumble on the words, especially the Welsh ones.

We are all volunteers who do it for the love of singing and for some following family tradition. Many sing with brothers and fathers and remember their grandfathers who sang in the choir. Our choir, the Caldicot Male Voice Choir, was founded in 1963 by steel workers from the local plants. Most of the others were founded by mineworkers and some were much older.

It is also like going back in time. We are mostly singing traditional hymns and Welsh airs and even the newer pieces are variations on the old, such as singing the very common Calon Lan in the style of a Maori New Zealand melody, or the South African national anthem half in Afrikaans and half in Welsh. Most are songs that could have been sung in chapel or community halls in the 1950s or even the 1930s or earlier.

We start with God Save the Queen. After the half time break there is a Welsh hymn for the audience to join in with and then of course at the end is the Welsh national anthem: thousands all singing full and proud. It raises the hairs on the back of my neck and fills me with awe at the passion by which all sing. It is a fitting close to the community festivity.

In the end, 3½ hours; a lot of singing! Wonderful! Exhausting! Thrilling! There are not enough superlatives to describe it.

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