Reflection by Andy Friedman on the Armagh Tour

On stage at Armagh Cathedral

Photograph by Paul Williams

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

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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.

Choir sings for Magor Church in Wales Primary School

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.

Incredible Chorister Bill Nash celebrates his 97th Birthday

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

Three new members cross the threshold of the Choir Hall

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.

Choir Entertains the Residents of Cherry Trees

On Thursday 19th December, Caldicot Male Voice Choir was delighted to make its Annual visit to the Cherry Trees Nursing Home in Caldicot to entertain the residents with a bright selection of Christmas Carols.

Dressed in their colourful Christmas costumes, the Choir, conducted by Sian Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John NIcholson invited the audience to join in a medley of Carols including ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘Hark the Herald Angels SIng’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ before presenting the choir favourites ‘Silver Bells, ‘Casatschok’ with its loud ending, ‘Shepherds watch and Wise Men Wonder’ to the tune ‘Scarlet Ribbons’, ‘Joy to the World’ before rounding rounding off with a Christmas Medley including ‘Sleigh Bells Ringing’, ‘A Child is a King’ and of course ‘Jingle Bells’. The staff of Cherry trees then provided the choristers to a welcome feast of mince pies, cup cakes and drinks, thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the choristers.

The Choir then departed to local hostelry, The Haywain to entertain the patrons with another rousing round of carol singing before enjoying a feast of Christmas Fayre and other traditional refreshments provided by the publicans.

This is my final post about the Choir’s activities over the Christmas period so may I wish you, on behalf of Caldicot Male Voice Choir a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.


Photos by Colleen Gauntlett


If after reading these you would consider taking up a new hobby in the New Year, why not come along to one of the Choir’s practice nights in Mill Lane on a Monday or Thursday evening from 7pm to see and hear us? You would be made very welcome. There is no commitment.

Choir Joins with Undy Primary School for Carol Concert

On Monday 16th December Caldicot Male Voice Choir was delighted to welcome Undy Primary School children to join it for an Annual Christmas concert with a local School.


The Choir is always delighted to annually welcome a local School to the Choir Hall to join in a fun filled joint concert


Conducted by Sian Hatton and Shirley-Anne James and accompanied by Stephen Berry and John Nicholson, the concert opened with the Choir singing ‘Christmas Time Again is Here’ to the tune of ‘Llanfair’ and ‘Shepherds Watch and Wise Men Wonder’ to the tune ‘Scarlet Ribbons’.
The school choir, conducted by Sophie Skellorn and Charlotte Skinner then entertained the audience of proud parents, grandparents and friends to a wide range of Christmas songs including ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’ and ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ before the Choir returned to sing ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’ and ‘Mary’s Boy Child’. A section of the Choir then sang the duet made famous by Bing Crosby and David Bowie ‘Peace on Earth and Little Drummer Boy’ combination.


The children returned in part two to entertain us with delightful versions of ‘Winter Wonder Land’, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’. Many pieces sung by the children included lively dance routines to the envy of many in Caldicot choir.


Then came the surprise of the night when Santa made a surprise visit, much to the delight and joy of the children to join in as a guest singer for Caldicot’s final performance which included ‘Joy to the World’, ‘Casatschok’, ‘Silver Bells’ and finally a Christmas Medley including Jingle Bells when the children were thrilled to be invited on stage to sing with the Choir.


A lovely evening enjoyed by all and the Choir is sure to repeat with another local school next year.


Photographs were taken by Colleen Gauntlett with the School’s permission to use the group photographs.

CHOIR GUESTS AT LYDBROOK BAND CONCERT

On a wet and windy night over 50 members of Caldicot Male Voice Choir ventured deep into the Forest of Dean to take part in a beautiful and enjoyable concert at Cinderford’s Woodfield Snooker Centre where the Choir were guest artistes of the incredible Lydbrook Band conducted by Ian Holmes.at its Christmas Concert on December 14th December.

It must also be mentioned that this was the first concert of Top tenor, Ben Walker after passing his second voice test on December 9th.

The concert opened with the band playing an Overture of Berlioz’s ‘The Corsair’ and followed with a solo tenor horn performance of ‘Over the Rainbow’ by talented Tom Goodman. This was followed by a performance of a new arrangement of the ‘Countryfile theme’ by Guy James for Brass Bands in which the band featured in the TV programme earlier this on October 21st this year

The Choir, conducted by Sian Hatton and Shirley-Anne James and accompanied by Stephen Berry and John Nicholson presented in its first half, ‘African Prayer’, possibly the most famous of all Welsh Hymns, ‘Calon Lan’ and Robat Owen’s ‘Benedictus’, sung by the choir in the famous St Mary’s Basilica in Krakow in June this year. The performance featured Bob Dylan’s ‘Make you Feel My Love’ which was accompanied not only by John Nicholson on piano but by Leon Jones, his first public performance of this piece on guitar.

The highly talented Lydbrook Band continued with a ‘Balkan Dance’, accompanied the audience in ‘The First Nowell’ and to begin the second part, a wonderful ‘Christmas Confection’

The Choir carried on the Christmas theme in their festive hats to include ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen,’ Shepherd’s watch and Wise Men Wonder’ to the tune ‘Strawberry Fair’, and ‘Mary’s Boy Child’. The Choir finalised with the song made famous and covered by many artistes since Bing Crosby ‘Silver Bells’.

The fabulous concert, enjoyed by over 300 in the audience finalised with the Band playing a medley of Christmas tunes including ‘Away in Manger’, with soloist, Flugel Horn player Tracey Moss and ended with the accompaniment to the audience and choir singing ‘Jingle Bells’.

A thoroughly enjoyable Christmas concert which delighted everyone who took part or watched and listened in the audience.

Choristers consume Colleen’s celebratory Christmas Cake

Colleen prepares to cut the cake for eager choristers

It’s become a tradition at Christmas time at Caldicot Male Voice Choir that Colleen Gauntlett presents the choir with a special Christmas cake as a gift in appreciation of all the friendship, hard work and entertainment the Choristers and Musical Team have provided over the past year.

At practice on 12th December, the Choir enjoyed a fabulous, hand crafted, 10 inch square, three layered, red iced cake featuring six ‘Naughty Elves’ as the theme with a traditional chocolate and orange flavour. Eagerly devoured by the Choir within minutes during the interval, the choristers, led by Assistant Musical Director, Shirley-Anne James showed their appreciation with rapturous applause and cheers much to Colleen’s embarrassment because she had a mouthful of cake at the time!

Colleen would also like to make it known that any resemblance of an elf to any chorister is purely coincidental.The choristers also appreciated that there was enough left for a piece to be taken home to their wives as well.

There’s a lot more than singing in Caldicot Male Voice Choir so if you are interested in joining please come along to a concert or a practice night at the hall in Mill Lane (near the Leisure Centre) on any Monday or Thursday evening (except Bank Holidays and Christmas period).

Fabulous Choir Christmas Party

Photo by Lyn Gauntlett

CALDICOT CHOIR CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS IN PUGWASH PANTO STYLE

Caldicot Male Voice Choir held a fabulous, really enjoyable Christmas Party and Pantomime on December 6th when the Choristers not only settled down to enjoy a really festive evening but also provided all the guests to an amazing evening of entertainment,

With master of ceremonies, Stephen Dance, this included Christmas Songs by members of the Choir, community Carol singing led by Shirley Anne James, an amusing solo Russian drinking song called ‘The Kretchma’ acted out by chorister Andy Friedman and frantic and enjoyable rounds of ‘Pass the Parcel’ well remembered from childhood days.

Written and directed by Ron Powell, practiced over many weeks, in total secrecy, the Choir’s entertainment contribution culminated in a highly humorous Pantomime version of ‘Captain Pugwash’ and his crew’s battle with ‘Cut-throat Jake’ to see who goes to the Christmas Party. The characters are: top row, left to right: Garry Keeble, Dave Gould, Bob Brown, Stuart Parry, Darren Lloyd, Paul Thomas, Grahame Morton, Ron Powell, Russ Woodward, Anthony Griffiths. From row, left to right: Roger Matthews, Shirley Anne James (the crew insisted Shirl be in the photo), Karl Gregory, Chris Nolan and Rob Stallard as Madam Lafayette.

A raffle held to raise more funds for The UK Sepsis Trust raised about £270 bringing the total so far, announced by Anthony Griffiths, to over £6000 this year.

Following the Choir’s entertainment the evening culminated in disco dancing until the close.

This shows that not only is there concert male voice singing while being part of a choir but there is a fantastic active social life with loads of fun as well.

Many thanks to all who made the evening a great success including bar manager David Kirton and staff, entertainments manager Ron Powell and organiser Anthony Griffiths. The evening would also not have been possible without the sterling work of the ’10 o’clock team for setting up the hall and clearing up afterwards. Thanks also to Leon Jones, who with others put up the Christmas decorations.

A special mention must go to Emma from ‘A Touch of Welsh Elegance’ for an incredible job of dressing the tables and chairs for the Choir which no doubt added a rare touch of elegance to one of our parties.

Choir sings in freezing weather in Caldicot Town Centre

Photos by Colleen Gauntlett

On a freezing November 29th when the temperature was below 3 degrees, over 45 choristers of Caldicot Male Voice Choir braved the elements and took to the stage in Caldicot Town Centre to warm up and delight the crowd who had come to join in the festivities of switching on the Christmas Lights in the town.


Dressed in their best Christmas jumpers and hats the choristers, conducted by Shirley Anne James and accompanied by Sian Hatton entertained the bystanders by opening with the rousing ‘Christmas Time Again is Here’ sung to the tune Llanfair, followed by stirring Christmas carols including ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’, ‘Shepherds Watch and Wise Men Wonder’, ‘Joy to the World’, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ and it’s own version of ‘Silver Bells’ recorded by many including Bing Crosby, Michael Buble,Dean Martin, Andy Williams and Elvis Presley but was originally sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the 1951 film ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’


The Choir ended its choral renditions with the Cossack foot tapping, dancing song ‘Casatschok’ and a cheerful medley of Yuletide favourites before announcing loudly that ‘It’s Christmas Time!’. Many choristers then made their way to a nearby local hostelry for a warming cup of chocolate (or so I’m told).