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David Gould’s record of events in Armagh

Photo by Paul Williams

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.

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.

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.

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).

FABULOUS JOINT EVENING OF SONG WITH BARRY MVC

On the competition stage there is great rivalry between male voice choirs but away from that there is true friendship and camaraderie amongst all who share the incredible, common hobby and experience of singing in a Male Voice Choir.


This was exemplified when Barry Male Voice Choir took up the invitation of the choristers of Caldicot Male Voice Choir to join in with them at an ‘Evening of Song’ at their magnificent Choir Hall in Caldicot. The evening event was held to raise funds for The Sepsis Trust UK, Caldicot’s adopted charity this year and £542 was raised by the generosity of all who attended. This total takes the fund well over the target of £5000 for the charity.


Planned so that the evening enabled both choirs to show off their talents and expertise of choral singing, Caldicot, conducted by Sian Hatton and Shirley-Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson included in its appreciated pieces ‘African Prayer’, ‘Benedictus’, ‘With a Voice of Singing’, ‘Rachie’, Paul Simon’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, arranged by choir accompanist Stephen Berry and to wide acclaim premiered the Bob Dylan composition ‘Make You Feel My Love’ arranged by Sian Hatton and recently recorded by Adele,


The ‘Boys in Blue’, the visitors from Barry, conducted by Dot Connell and accompanied by James Bull further entertained the packed house of invited guests to a wide range of genres including ‘Crugybar’, ‘Au Fond du Temple Saint’ from Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers, the warning to ‘Hunker Down’ at the approaching storm, ‘Eli Jenkin’s Prayer’ and the complex piece ‘Sky and Space’ which included arrangements of David Bowie’s Life on Mars and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.


The formal part ended with both choir’s combining in an assembly of over 80 voices to sing favourite hymn ‘Deus Salutis’ to the tune of Llef.
The evening continued with a superb and extensive buffet provided by Caldicot choristers’ wives and an enjoyable, rousing period of ‘Afterglow’ singing by a combination of both choirs which gave the opportunity to sing their favourite songs in a relaxed atmosphere of choral harmony.


In his final address, Barry MVC chairman David Parker expressed his congratulations and appreciation to all concerned in making this a truly memorable evening.


Photos by Colleen Gauntlett

Choir Sings at Magor’s St Mary’s Church

The Choir conducted by Sian Hatton

Photograph by Colleen Gauntlett

On Saturday 28th September over forty of the Choir’s members made the short journey to St Mary’s Church in Magor to support the Magor Benifice Churchmen’s Society and Magor Events which raise funds to local deserving good causes and charities.

Organised and compered by Robert Kenny, the concert opened with the rousing, patriotic Men of Harlech and the packed programme, conducted by Sian Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson contained a variety of pieces including Welsh songs Calon Lan, Bugeili’or Gwenith Gwyn, Yfory , Afonaf Angel Rachie and Cwm Rhondda.

The Choir was also delighted to present firm favourite, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and contrasted with A Miner’s Song, Amen, Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Yesterday and Sixteen Tons. The Choir also premiered the Flanders and Swann’s humorous ‘The Hippopotamus Song’ during which the audience joined in with ‘Mud, Mud Glorious Mud’.

The concert was further augmented by the incredible soprano voice of Glenna Parry, accompanied by her husband Gavin who presented a range of songs from opera and musicals including Summertime from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Joining with the Choir’s Musical Director, Sian Hatton a number of duets were performed finalising with the hilarious Rossini’s Cat’s Duet depicting two feuding soprano felines. The duo were joined by Shirley Anne James to perform ‘Three Little Maids from School from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera ‘The Mikado’.

The concert finalised with Isaac Watts ‘Morte Criste – When I survey the Wond’rous Cross’, accompanied by John Nicholson on Church organ and Gavin Parry on piano.

CHOIR ROARS IN FRONT OF ICC WALES DRAGON

Photographs taken by Colleen Gauntlett

Caldicot Male Voice Choir became the first ever choir to sing at the new International Convention Centre, Wales at the Celtic Manor, Newport on Sunday 15th September 2019. This was also the first ever convention and exhibition held at the centre which has not officially opened yet.

The Choir sang at the invitation of the Association of Stoma Care Nurses which provides care, facilities and education for stoma patients. The Association also organised the event which attracted several hundred visitors to the huge centre

Conducted by Musical Director Sian Hatton and assistant MD Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson, the Choir opened with Cwm Rhondda and treated the delegates to a rousing performance which also included not least Yfory, Sixteen Tons, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Rachie, Begeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn, What Would I do Without My Music? and African Prayer.

The Choir finally assembled on the Plaza in front of the gigantic steel Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) for an historic photo followed by an impromptu, unaccompanied performance of ‘Stout Hearted Men’ and ending with ‘Hen Wlad fy Nhadau’, the Welsh National Anthem over and above the sound of the M4 traffic.