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Photographs by James Goodwin and Lyn Gauntlett
On Saturday the 7th September, as part of its 50th Anniversary programme, the Caldicot Male Voice Choir made the short 100 metre journey across the road to the Leisure Centre in Caldicot to perform an exciting concert of pieces from throughout its illustrious 50 year history. Hosted by the superb journalist and broadcaster Penny Roberts the Choir was delighted to perform before a large audience a range of songs from its past including Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Entrance and March of the Peers‘, the spiritual telling of the arrival of the animals at Noah’s Ark, ”De Animals a’ comin” and the romantic Elton John melody from the Lion King. ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ in which Musical director, Siân Hatton, with her amazing soprano voice, sang the solo part, while Assistant Musical Director Shirley Ann James conducted. The first quarter closed with the unaccompanied, beautiful Malotte arrangement of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.
The Choir has a long proud tradition of encouraging young musicians and following this it was delighted to introduce a quintet of young woodwind musicians, all graduates of the Royal Welsh School of Music and Drama, who thrilled the audience with a mix of Handel: Hornpipe, Romantic Flight from the film How to Train Your Dragon, Arnold’s, Three Shanties, including ‘What shall we do with a drunken, sailor?’ renditions encompassing the worlds of classical and film music. All technically difficult pieces the audience were amazed by the range of sound, skill and expertise of the Rosso Ensemble. As Penny Roberts remarked, we are sure to hear a lot more of these musicians, both as a group and as individuals.
In the second quarter the Choir opened with the rhythmic African Trilogy, with Siân Hatton taking the solo part, followed by an arrangement of the 1960 hit by the Everley Brothers, ‘ Let it be me‘. The quiet, unaccompanied madrigal sound of ‘Innsbruck‘, sung in Welsh was contrasted with the most famous of operatic duets; ‘The Pearl Fishers‘ from Bizet’s opera of the same name.
The Choir’s adopted theme song’ ‘Llanfair‘ followed and then to thrill the audience further ‘American Trilogy‘, made famous by Elvis Presley was conducted by Shirley Ann James and accompanied by Stephen Berry on piano and John Nicholson on electronic keyboard. Stepping up to the mark, not only one of the most famous of football themes, but probably the most famous tenor aria, ‘Nessun Dorma‘ was expertly conducted by Siân Hatton and wonderfully sung by the choir to produce the most thrilling of endings, almost equal to a final Welsh hymn ‘Amen’. The virtues and wonder of one man’s living in Wales were proclaimed by the singing of ‘O Gymru‘ in which the solo was endearingly sung by Tom Hole, who has sung this so many times before, it must be in his dreams.
The Rosso Ensemble composed of Flute: Gemma Hawkins, Oboe: Bethan Keeble, Clarinet: Daisy Evans, Bassoon: Harry Ventham and on Horn: Daniel de Souza re-entered to continue to delight the audience with its fabulous sound. Pieces included Reicha: 1st movement, Morricone: Gabriels oboe and finally, Ibert: Trois Pièce Breve. From foot tapping to hauntingly beautiful pieces, the highly talented Rosso Ensemble provided a fabulous programme.
In contrast , the Choir re-entered to enthuse the audience once again with the Welsh Hymn ‘Laudamus‘ – ‘We shall praise thee’ with one of the most famous of all Welsh Hymn openings ‘Gwaed y groes sy’n codi fyny’, and then calming every one down with the delightful, nostalgic composition by Wilfred Shaw ‘An Evening’s Pastorale, first sung by the choir in 1966. An equal favourite, newly introduced in the past two years, the choir melodiously threaded it way through the 1954 Jack Richards’ composition, words by Richard Mullen, of ‘He’, specifically arranged for our choir by accompanist Stephen Berry. In startling contrast of styles the choir finalised by entering the world of Rock with its stunning, unique presentation of Freddie Mercury’s Queen hit ‘Find Me Somebody to Love’. This was arranged for the Choir by our own John Nicholson who accompanied on the keyboard. Siân Hatton, this time dropping to tenor expertly sung Freddie’s part and left no-one in any doubt that we had found, in our audience, many who in return, love us. Compère Penny Roberts remarked that she had interviewed Freddie Mercury when a young journalist and she is sure that he would have been thrilled by this fabulous performance.
The Choir has raised many hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities and good causes throughout it 50 years and is pleased and proud to continue this tradition. On hearing of the plight of of so many children suffering radiation sickness as a result of the disastrous Chernobyl nuclear explosion in 1988, the choir decided that it’s nominated charity this year would be the local ‘Victims of Chernobyl Children’s Trust’ who’s aim is every year to bring children from Belarus to Caldicot for a month’s much needed respite. For 25 years, the charity, led by Marcia Doyle and her husband Michael, have also organised and travelled with convoys to Belarus with much needed basic aid to Belarus each year. They will be leaving Caldicot once again on September 20th for a month’s stay in Belarus and to meet up with another convoy.
The Choir, together with it social side, Côr Meibion Caldicot Cycle Club and The Birdie Boys Golf Society and other events, an Open Evening, raffles and Christmas card sales resulted in Choir Chairman, Leon Jones being able to present the charity with a cheque for an amazing SIX THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE POUNDS and 40 PENCE as a symbol of the total amount raised. It is worth mentioning that the sponsored cycle ride that the cycle club undertook from Brecon to Caldicot in July raised over £4700 of that total. This will enable the charity to bring another six children and their interpreter to Caldicot next year. We are sure to give them, as always a really warm Caldicot welcome.
The Choir is sure that it has presented a wonderful evening, not only to its special guests, Newport East MP, Jessica Morden, Monmouthshire County Council Chairman, David Dovey and his wife Stephanie, Caldicot Mayor Alan Davies and his wife Susan, County Councillors; Pauline Watts, Jim Higginson and John Marshall; charity organisers Marcia and Michael Doyle, Choir President, Richard Evans with his wife Norma, and Vice Presidents but also to compère Penny Roberts, Guest Artists, The Rosso Ensemble and all the Caldicot residents who have loyally supported us over the years. A wonderful, enjoyable musical and social evening which will live in their memories for a long time to come and a fitting contribution to our 50th year Anniversary Celebrations.
Finally the choir returned with its guests, to enjoy an evening’s refreshment and further impromptu singing; always enjoyed by everyone. The highlight of our social gathering was the final cutting of the 50th Anniversary Cake by Siân Hatton and Shirley Ann James, who with knives aloft (who knows what was in their minds?) enthusiastically attacked the main sixteen inch cake weighing 24 pounds. The main cake was just sufficient to give everyone in the hall a piece, with choristers descending like gannets to devour the last crumbs; the second, three dimensional cake representing the choir badge, was auctioned and raised an incredible £65 by a chorister consortium of Bob Brown, Ron Powell, Tony Griffiths and Mark Stocker. We are informed that the cake will be taken to the local Brookside Nursing Home for the residents to enjoy shortly. The third cake, although iced and supporting nine sugar crafted choristers is a dummy demonstration. The result of three months hard work, the fabulous cakes were created by chorister’s wife Colleen Gauntlett who crafted three displays representing the Choir’s badge and the Choir’s achievement of ‘Singing Together Since 1963’ . Unfortunately, Colleen could not be at the evening to witness the cutting and distribution of her beloved creations; she would have had a tear in her eye.