If you’ve been over to the Leisure Centre recently you will have noticed that some building work is going on at the Choir Hall. The Choir Hall has recently increased its flexibility by offering the use of 16 round tables at various functions as well as rectangular tables and seating for about 200.
This has resulted in the need for extra storage space so all this furniture need not be stored in the main hall and so create extra floor space at events, concerts and functions. To this end planning permission was obtained to use the side of the hall to build an extension but building work was delayed due to funds being available.
Griffiths Civil Engineering are currently involved in renovation of Caldicot Town Centre and the company was approached by the Choir in February to see if they could help in any way as part of their community projects. Following this meeting which included a video presentation, Griffiths Civil Engineering agreed to provide the materials, equipment and labour to build the footings, foundations and brickwork up to floor level.
Work was delayed due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic but the concrete foundations have now been laid in preparation for the brickwork to be completed in the next two weeks.
Funds, equipment and materials will be needed to enable completion of the work so if you’re out there and are feel you can contribute in any way, please get in touch via our web site and the Choir will be more than happy to contact you.
Meanwhile, the Choir is extremely grateful to Griffiths Civil Engineering for their help so far into this project.
The lockdown period to restrict the spread of Covid-19 has led to a huge restriction of several groups and societies ability to get together, socialise and enjoy their favourite hobby.
However, they have been keeping healthy and active with a huge variety of activities; never have gardens, sheds, allotments looked so well. Hundreds of little jobs around the house which have been waiting for years have now been undertaken and completed. As well as painting and decorating, many have taken up new hobbies, revisited old ones by dusting down the piano keyboard for example, learned new skills such as baking and cooking and even started to learn a language such as Welsh. The choristers and music team of Caldicot Male Voice Choir, like so many others cannot wait to come back.
Caldicot Male Voice Choir has been unable to practice since mid-March and its nearly seventy members cannot enjoy their favourite pastime of singing together at its Choir Hall. For most this is their major social activity and has really been missed by all. Many have continued to work in key areas of the NHS, transport, essential retailing; others have been furloughed and many have been shielding or self-isolating at home.
Caldicot Male Voice Choir choristers were saddened to learn of the death of long standing chorister David Scott at the Royal Gwent Hospital on July 5th after a short illness. David was 85 years old.
David, (Davey, Dai) was a long standing member of the choir following his move from Scotland as a young man to work in the Central Engineering Workshops at Llanwern steelworks until his retirement. Never forgetting his roots, he nevertheless became an adopted Welshman by joining Caldicot Male Voice Choir as a second tenor in about 1966. Although he left for a short while he rejoined in the 1970’s, joined the bass section and received a 25 year long service award, alongside many others in 2013.
A long serving committee member and no longer able to sing in concerts due to ill health, he finally retired from the choir in January 2017 at the age of 82 but was still an ever present at the Annual and Gala concerts with his wife Ellen. He was delighted at the Annual Concert in 2016 to be honoured with the Choir’s Lifetime Achievement Award and conferred as an honorary Vice President. The certificate, presented by John Griffiths AM hangs proudly on his living room wall alongside his 25 year long service award.
Davey was a true gentleman, always willing to join in a friendly chat or sing along in an afterglow. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by all who knew him, both in the Choir and in the Caldicot community. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to his wife Ellen and his family at this sorrowful time.
Rest in Peace, dear friend.
Footnote: The funeral will take place at Langstone Crematorium on July 21st at 10-30 am but due to Covid 19 restrictions only family and informed friends are allowed to attend. The cortege will be passing through Mill Lane, past the Choir Hall en-route at about 10-00 am.
One of the few benefits of the shutdown at the Choir Hall is that a long awaited major upgrade of the kitchen facilities could be accomplished. The Choir was fortunate in that a few days before the lockdown, Howden’s Kitchens of Chepstow donated sufficient cupboards and fittings to completely refurbish the out of date and worn out kitchen as part of its charitable service contribution to the local community.
However, lock down and social isolation due to Covid 19 came into force before work could be started. Fortunately chorister Leon Jones stepped in and volunteered to isolate himself at the hall, firstly to strip out the old kitchen, arrange for a new floor and final fitting as well as disposal of the waste.
With further contributions from Rhys Maidment of Klassic Floors and carpenter Andrew Little a new floor was laid and the units fitted. The finishing touches, including complete tiling of the kitchen and plumbing in the services was then done by Leon himself, again isolating himself at the hall. The skip to dispose of the waste was donated by choir vice president Irwyn Williams of Woodstock Skip Hire. The paint was obtained from B & Q Newport.
A fabulous job done by all in very difficult isolation circumstances and the Choir members are extremely grateful for all who contributed materials, time and labour.
The final photos were taken by Leon who is quoted as saying ‘it was one way of dealing with the lock down’.
Last January saw the celebration of the 97th birthday at the Choir Hall of probably the oldest and longest serving male chorister in the Country; Bill Nash who has been singing in choirs for over 80 years, even during his wartime service in the Royal Air Force.
Instigated by the Welsh Association of Male Choirs after seeing the report on Facebook, Caldicot Male Voice Choir was delighted soon after to receive a parcel from Wilbur McCormick of the D L Davis Male Voice Choir in Jackson, Ohio, USA. The parcel contained a Choir polo shirt, a commemorative plaque and a letter endorsing BIll as an Honorary Life Member of this prestigious Choir.
The beautifully made plaque mounted on oak reads: ‘In Recognition of his 80 Years of Service to the World of Music BILL NASH is Awarded a Lifetime Honorary Membership by the D.M. DAVIS MALE VOICE CHOIR of Jackson Ohio, USA January 9, 2020′.
This is a rare honour, richly deserved by Bill. This accolade was due to be presented to Bill at the Annual Concert this year, but unfortunately the event was cancelled, Since we do not know when the Choir can meet again it was decided that now is the right time to make this award public. Bill is at home in Bristol, is well and still learning his music. He has been aware of the award for some time and he and his family are thrilled and delighted that his long continuous service to male voice singing has been honoured in this way.
Many thanks to Wilbur McCormick and all at the D.M. Davis Male Voice Choir for this wonderful tribute. Hopefully we will be able to make the presentation to Bill personally soon.
Dave Gould was good enough to write a report of Caldicot Male Voice Choir’s trip to Armagh. This post is slightly edited to allow press reports but I’m sure Dave will forgive me. I’ve put up Paul Williams photo again until I’ve had chance to collate more by choristers. Bear with me.
CALDICOT CHOIR IN ARMAGH FOR ST. PATRICK FESTIVAL
In the freezing conditions of a 5-30am boarding of the bus on Friday 6th March, Caldicot Male Voice Choir departed the sleeping town to begin the journey to Armagh in Northern Island, After more than 6 hours travelling from Bristol airport, the Choir arrived at Aonach Myacha Irish Cultural and Language centre to take part in the opening celebrations of the new centre, built around the steel shell of the old fire station.
Scheduled to sing a few numbers at 2-30pm to entertain the crowds and dignitaries, unfortunately there were so many participants that it wasn’t until 3-30pm that the Choir was able to sing two pieces, ‘Rachie’ conducted by Sian Hatton and ‘Calon Lan’ conducted by Shirley Anne James, both accompanied by John Nicholson. This short performance was broadcast live by RTE Radio.
Following the settling in at the Clayton Hotel for its two night stay, the choristers made their way for an evening of refreshment and on request a lot of singing at the popular Kelly’s Cellar, only stopping to give other acts a chance.
The following morning many choristers took on a bus top sight seeing tour before moving on to the spectacular Armagh Cathedral in preparation for its evening performance. This took the form of joining in with some 30 choral and individual musicians and singers to pay tribute to the achievements of St Patrick. Caldicot, as the only Male Voice Choir performed its two pieces, ‘Anfonal Angel’ and ‘Benedictus’ under the superb echoing acoustics of the marbled setting of the incredible Cathedral. The Festival will be televised in Ireland by RTE on March 17th.
Arriving at the hotel after midnight, the lateness of the hour did not prevent the choir enjoying an afterglow singing until past 3am.
The final day the Choir, before returning home spent the afternoon at the spectacular Titanic Museum which gave the opportunity for much reflection on this tragic event.
Finally the Choir arrived back in Caldicot in the early hours of Monday morning, exhausted but knowing that it had 19 hours to go before its next practice.
This post is the thoughts of Caldicot Male Voice Chorister Andy Friedman following the return of the Choir from Armagh last weekend. Thanks Andy. Thanks also to Paul Williams for the photo. More to follow.
Caldicot Male Voice Choir trip to Belfast and Armagh: 6-8 March 2020 It was cold when we boarded the coach at Choir Hall in the gloom at 5:30am to begin our long journey to Aonach Myhacha cultural centre in Armagh. We were all wearing our blazers and greys and accompanied by our little Easyjet micro allowances for hand luggage.
It was a long trip by coach and plane and coach, and after seven hours we arrived near the cultural centre. A mere three hours after that we had tasted the local foods and of course the Guinness. We were fed and lined up ready to go onstage in a large room up on the second floor of the fresh paint scented new cultural centre. Then we did an impression of the Grand Old Duke of York’s troops, but instead of marching up to the top of the hill, we marched down the stairwell to the concert area, got most of the way down, stood for 15 minutes, and then marched back up the stairwell as the Irish carried on with their speeches and entertainments. We then marched back down and waited on the stairwell again, and then got to the small stage hardly big enough for the 40 strong Caldicot Male Voice Choir.
Shirley-Anne James was called upon at short notice to give a little speech in Welsh for the Celtic audience, and then we sang our two numbers Rachie and Calon Lan. Then back to Belfast for the evening and next day of being tourists before the coach back to Armagh for rehearsal and performance at the magnificent cathedral.
The trip was marked more by listening to music performed by others than giving our own concert. The restaurants and bars had musicians playing. The cavernous St Georges market in Belfast had entertainments including a yukelli group and a really magnificent guitar trio
. Singing on that generous stage among the marble and concrete and under the magnificent staggeringly high ornate ceiling was a thrill. During our rehearsal it became rather obvious that one among us was jacketless. The errant jacket made a particularly spectacular entrance to the rehearsal as announced by the concert master for all to see a wee taxi driver come down the central aisle to deliver to Alasdair Stewart who towered over him and shamefacedly accepted that very expensive jacket. Much speculation among the choristers on the cost of that taxi ride for the imperious jacket. Alasdair did comment on how accommodating the receptionist at the hotel was in extracting the jacket from his room and organising the taxi. This was a theme among us for the weekend. Just how friendly and helpful were the people we met in Northern Ireland. I for one was not only given enthusiastic directions on request but was also taken to where I wanted to go by a few.
Besides our two numbers, Anfonaf Angel and Benedictus and three pieces sung all together among the assembled masses, we shared the event with more than 30 other ‘acts’. They were all of a high standard, with for me the highlight being the innovative and tear-generating rendition of ‘Danny Boy’. Many a sore bum was endured; but ears were delighted. Our own songs were well received by some from the other choirs who filled the huge space in the Cathedral and, particularly gratifying, from Sian Hatton, Shirley-Anne James and John Nicholson
Some sang and drank at the hotel until near 3:00am after the concert in the Cathedral. Many pints of Guinness went down. Amazingly on Sunday none seemed much worse for wear. After most were fascinated, and saddened, at the impressive Titanic Museum, we eventually piled back onto the coach for the smooth journey back to Choir hall, arriving at 00:10 Monday morning. A mere 19 hours before practice.
Photograph by Colleen Gauntlett with kind permission of the School
Once again Caldicot Male Voice Choir supported a local school at its St David’s Day celebration. This time, invited by headmistress Suzanne Hamer, on March 2nd some thirty odd choristers and the musical team of conductor Shirley Anne James, accompanists Stephen Berry and John Nicholson went along to Magor Church in Wales Volunteer Aided Primary School.
In front of over 100 well behaved and attentive children the choir, all wearing traditional daffodils and compered by Shirley Anne, opened with resounding ‘Rachie’ guaranteed to have the children sitting bolt upright in attention. Followed by Welsh folk song ‘Bugeili’or Gwenith Gwyn’, the children were treated to a solo performance by Peter Hanks of ‘My Little Welsh Home’ before answering a barrage of questions about the Choir: Who’s the oldest? Who’s the youngest? What’s your favourite song? How long have you been singing? How many in the Choir? and many more. Finalising with favourite Calon Lan with David Gould singing the solo second verse, the whole school then stood to join in with the Choir to sing the Welsh National Anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.
On Friday the Choir will be travelling to Northern Ireland to firstly sing on Friday 6th March at the opening of the Irish Cultural Centre in Armagh to be followed on Saturday by singing at a Festival in Armagh’s St Patrick’s Cathedral to commemorate the life of St Patrick. This will be broadcast live throughout the world on March 17th. Before returning on Sunday 7th March, the choir will visit and sing at the Titanic Museum in Belfast. Should be an interesting weekend.
On Thursday 9th January, Caldicot Male Voice Choir wished its oldest chorister a happy birthday by giving him a standing ovation and enthusiastically singing the tune ‘Happy Birthday’ to Bottom Bass Bill Nash followed by ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’. He was also presented with a special card signed by all present as a mark of the true affection and respect felt by all members of the choir.
The evening was attended by his son Andrew and daughters Anne and Sharon. Unfortunately his other two daughters, Jane and Ellen were unable to attend but sent their very best wishes. All were thrilled and delighted with the Choir’s genuine adulation of their father.
Bill’s celebration of his 97th birthday on Thursday surely must make him the oldest male voice chorister in Wales, if not the U.K. still actively and regularly singing. Tributes have been pouring in including from the USA and mentions have been made on BBC Radio Wales.
One of the many highlights of his almost 50 years in Caldicot Male Voice Choir was to be presented to HRH Prince Charles when the choir was honoured to sing at the Prince’s celebration of his 70th birthday at Buckingham Palace in May 2018.
Bottom bass Bill makes the journey to practice from the centre of Bristol to Caldicot twice a week aided by his family and is still able to make it to many of our concerts.
Bill was born in Llanharan in 1923 to later sing, at the age of 14 with his father and brothers in Llanharan Male Voice Choir and attend Cowbridge Grammar School from where he left at 16 years old to serve in the RAF before and during the second World War as an aircraft fitter. He served in North Africa, Italy, South Africa and other countries before moving to Gloucester after the war and then to Bristol in 1952 to work many years for the British Aircraft Corporation and where he has lived since. He sang in Redland Male Choir in Bristol for many years before joining Caldicot Male Voice Choir in 1970.
He has, in his long history of over 80 years of male choral singing, sung in every section of a male voice choir. An incredible, probably unequalled record.
Bill was presented with a well deserved Lifetime Achievement award and conferred as an Honorary Vice President of Caldicot Male Voice Choir at a special presentation by John Griffiths AM and Musical Director Siân Hatton at the Annual Concert in April 2014.
Bill has an incredible knowledge and expertise as a chorister and is always willing to pass on his experiences to younger and new members of the choir, not to mention our musical team.
I would be interested to learn of any chorister who is of Bill’s age or older who is still active as a singer in any Welsh Male Voice Choir
2019 closed for Caldicot Male Voice Choir with not only a number of concerts in the area and reverie at its Christmas Party and New Year celebrations but the Choir was pleased to welcome top tenor Ben Walker into its ranks, Ben comes from West Wales, is a Welsh speaker but now lives in Pontypool. By the way, Ben is only in his mid twenties.
Not only did the New Year open with a bang with the celebration of Bill Nash’s 97th birthday on the 9th January but Caldicot Male Voice Choir was pleased to welcome two new choristers to the Bottom Bass section on the same evening.
Terry Herbert is originally from Cwmbran and now lives in Caldicot. He was so enthralled by the Choir’s participation of Carol singing at the Haywain just before Christmas that he decided that he would join the Choir in the New Year. He works with a number of the choristers who all encouraged him to come along to practice at the Choir Hall.
Nigel Keen came along last Thursday and on Monday, like Terry decided to take his first voice test. Nigel is a professional musician (he plays the flute) and moved to Caldicot from West Kent about a year ago and has been looking for a new hobby and pastime since. We’re so glad you decided to join us Nigel and I’m sure your musical skills will be an asset to the choir as well.
Welcome to you all and I hope you have a long and happy association as members of Caldicot Male Voice Choir.
If any of you out there would like to follow in Ben’s, Terry’s and Nigel’s footsteps into the Choir Hall in Mill Lane Caldicot,on any Monday or Thursday evening, you will be made very welcome. There is no obligation to join and you can enjoy a pint at the bar while having a chat to a very friendly bunch.