Posts tagged ‘concerts’

Choir is Proud of its Eisteddfod Performance

Photographs by Colleen Gauntlett.  Click on images to enlarge


For the first time since 2004, Caldicot Male Voice Choir took up the challenge to enter the National Eisteddfod, this year held at Abergavenny on Saturday 6th August.  Entry into this has meant huge amounts of organisation, dedicated practice and commitment from all of the choristers and the Musical team of Siân Hatton, Shirley Anne James, Stephen Berry and John Nicholson over the past 6 months.


Arriving in glorious Summer weather the choir had the opportunity to spend some time walking around the enormous Maes before making its way to the Pavilion to prepare for the competition against some of the leading choirs in Wales.  After suffering sweltering temperatures in the ‘holding area’ the choir took to the stage as the last of the eight competitors, nervously but with superb discipline to face an audience of self considered experts, not to mention the adjudicating panel.


Conducted by musical director Siân Hatton and accompanied by Stephen Berry, the 72 strong choir opened its performance with Schubert’s beautifully written ‘Psalm 23’ with its quietly moving cadences throughout the story.  Following enthusiastic applause the next item was the rapidly tongue twisting ‘Deryn y bwn o’r banna’, sung unaccompanied to a fast moving rhythm.  Although short, this is a technically demanding piece to maintain the pace and of course keep in tune from beginning to end.  The choir succeeded in this admirably.  The performance ended with the contrasting ‘Bywyd y Bugail’ with its changing tempo, key and volume to test any choir’s ability to sing together.  The three pieces chosen had all been included in previous Eisteddfodau as test pieces and represented a severe challenge to the choir not only in the musical interpretation but was also demanding in the language.


After leaving the stage, to loud applause the choir and its supporters took the opportunity to acquire some refreshment before the long awaited adjudication.  Finally, the adjudicators commented very favourably on our performance although the eventual winners were Côr Meibion Brythoniau. We were disappointed that we did not come away with any silverware, we all felt that we had won gold medals for the huge efforts, incredible discipline and superb musical performance on the day.  The whole choir deserves enormous praise and respect for all the hard work put in over several months which culminated in a fantastic performance and an incredible experience.  Well done all.




For two choristers, tenor Alan Loy and bass Stuart Parry, this was their first concert performance after passing their second voice test.  Well done both for what must have been a nerve racking experience which is one you’ll never forget.

Caldicot Choir shares Cardiff stage with American Tapestry Choir

Tapestry Choir poster 3



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



Last Thursday 30th June the choir travelled down the M4 to Cardiff to sing at the beautiful St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Roath, Cardiff with  the 1oo strong, mixed voices of the American Tapestry Choir.  The M4 signs warned us of heavy traffic due to a concert and we thought we were going to sing to a packed house.  We soon realised these were a warning for the Beyoncé concert on the same night at the Principality stadium.  Never mind.


The Tapestry Choir consists of over 100 voices drawn from all over the USA who arrived in Ireland on 26th June.  Although they have been preparing for this tour for several months, many met for the first time and rehearsals started almost as soon as they step off the planes.  On their 12 day tour, organised by UK Travel Designers in conjunction with American based Harmony International, they had already performed in Dublin and were appearing with Caldicot Male Voice Choir in Cardiff before moving on to London, Normandy and Amsterdam.  The choir is conducted by composers Joe Martin, Lloyd Larson  and Nancy Price and features members of the incredible Manassas Chorale from Virginia, including their director Becky Verner.  Their repertoire includes many popular and traditional choral pieces largely composed by Joe and Lloyd.


Caldicot Male Voice choir conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James, accompanied by Stephen Berry and John Nicholson opened proceedings with a selection of Welsh hymns including Rachie and Gwahoddiad interspersed with American musical pieces ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ and ‘Memories’ from the film of the same name and the popular ‘A Miner’s Song’ by Dan and Laura Curtis.  This was followed by The Tapestry Choir giving superb vocal arrangements of gospel pieces and traditional spirituals including Beautiful Saviour, Bring Him Home, ‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free’ and ‘Praise the Lord’ a medley of compositions conducted by Lloyd Larson and a combination of Gabriel’s Oboe featuring Debbie MacDonald on flute before blending into the hymn  ‘This is my Father’s World’.


The second half opened with the Tapestry choir giving once again fabulous musical arrangements of traditional American songs including ‘Down in the Valley to Pray’ as well as new compositions by Lloyd Larson and Nancy Price, who conducted her version of The 23rd Psalm and featured soprano soloist Sue Martin singing a delightful version of Pie Iesu.  The Tapestry choir finalised with a roof-lifting ‘Summer version of Spirituals’ conducted by Joe Martin


The concert organisers deemed that all ticket sales at the door would be donated to the Choir’s 2016 charity appeal this year, the Motor Neurone Disease Association on behalf of whom an appeal was made by charity organiser Tannwen Saunders.  Tannwen later announced that about £315 was raised for the charity.


Caldicot choir followed the Tapestry choir’s wonderful performances with items equally as entertaining and in particular  ‘Ride the Chariot’ an American spiritual featuring soloist David Gould and Siân Hatton which was praised with yells of delight and a standing ovation from the Tapestry Choir and the audience.  The rousing second presentation included the Welsh Hymn, Llef as well as The Impossible Dream from the musical Man from La Mancha and the romantic modern Welsh song ‘Yfory’ tomorrow.  The Choir’s performance once again inspired the audience to a second standing ovation.  The mix of items blended together perfectly to give the Americans a real taste of Welsh culture in glorious, inspiring surroundings


The invitation to sing with the American Tapestry Choir was triggered by Nancy Price the composer of the song ‘As long as I have music’.  This piece was arranged by our own Stephen Berry for a four part male voice choir and was recorded by the choir on its 2010 album ‘One Moment in Time’, part of which is featured on our web site’s Recordings page.  Knowing she was coming on tour to the UK with the Tapestry Choir, she particularly asked if we could join them in Cardiff so we could perform this song jointly with the male members of their choir.   Although we had not sung this song for about four years, we, after a few run-throughs to remind us, were only too pleased to accept.  After just one rehearsal we performed this as a climax to a wonderful evening’s entertainment and once again the choirs and audience were moved to give the accolade of yet a third standing ovation.


In a closing remarks Father George Puthoor from Kerala, India of St Peter’s Church will not mind me saying that he was moved to tears while praising both choirs for a remarkable and incredibly moving performance by both choirs.  I’m sure both choirs and their musical teams will go along with that Father George.


Choir Sings in Three Choirs Concert at the Castle

Photos by Colleen Gauntlett.  Left click to enlarge


It was unusually splendid, sunny afternoon in the grounds of Caldicot Castle on June 18th when three Male Voice Choirs from Monmouthshire took part in the Choirs in the Castle Concert to raise funds for the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny in August.


Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth got together for the first time ever in their histories to take part in a fabulous concert of wonderful Welsh Male Voice singing to entertain a large crowd picnicking in the Castle grounds.


Opening with the classic Rachie, over 130 voices, conducted by Gareth Whitcombe and accompanied by Sara Humber of Blaenavon Male Voice Choir the audience were then entertained in turn by each choir.  Caldicot sang a mix of Llef, A Miner’s Song, What would I do without my music?, The Impossible Dream from the Braodway musical Man of La Mancha and finalising with the Welsh Hymn Aberystwyth conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied not only by John Nicholson and Stephen Berry but by a cacophony of the local birds enthusiastically joining in from the trees.


Chepstow’s seven items, conducted by Frank Jones and accompanied by Rosemarie Lewis and Kirsten Sondergest-Watson included the iconic ‘Calon Lan’ loved by so many choirs and audiences alike as well as This Little Light of Mine and Alexander’s Ragtime Band.


Monmouth Male Voice Choir has only been in existence for three years but gave a remarkable concert which included Divine Brahma, You Raise Me Up, Anfanol Angel and a medley of Welsh Hymns conducted by Ian Russell and accompanied by Helen Stidolph.


We were delighted to see guest artist Welsh tenor Wynne Evans again, who entertained us not only with Granada, O Sole Mio and later ‘With a Song in my Heart’ and together with the delightful compere Alex Jones from the BBC’s ‘One Show’ kept us amused with a humorous repartee and concise introductions throughout.  A highlight of the evening was when Wynne Evans surprisingly invited Gareth Whitcombe  to sing a part of the ‘Pearl Fisher’s Duet’ on stage.  Fortunately Gareth has a formal training as a singer.


The concert finalised with the choirs combining to give  incredible renditions of An American Trilogy and the well known, beautiful hymn ‘Gwahoddiad’ and closing with a rousing rendition by everyone of ‘Hen wlad fy Nhadau’, the National Anthem.


This was a unique occasion, organised by Monmouthshire County Council events team with special thanks going to Dan Davies and Tim Lewis for all their hard work in putting this together.  Let’s hope we can do more joint events together.



Choir Welcomed Back To Wiltshire Wool Town


Seventeen months ago, Caldicot Male Voice Choir coalesced with the Bradford-on-Avon Freemasons in collectively facilitating a fruitful and productive ‘sell out’ concert, at the town’s majestic Holy Trinity Church. Such was the success of that evening, in July 2012; that the choir was invited back to Wiltshire by the Freemasons, for a reprise of the assignment, on Saturday, 23rd November, 2013.


The Freemasons’ ornate Lodge in Bradford-on -Avon is over 500 years old and considerable funding is required to meet the ongoing preservation costs. The concert was arranged to reduce these costs and thus facilitate a more fulsome flow of financial aid to the many local charities that the Freemasons support.


The venue was, once again, the imposing Holy Trinity Church which sits, reverentially elevated, over the riverbank of the gurgling River Avon. The ecclesiastical magnificence of this vast church, with its high vaulted ceiling, made for a sublime acoustic performance and the large audience was treated to a marriage of mellifluous melody and rousing power.


The concert commenced with a vigorous rendition of ‘Entrance and March of the Peers’ from the operetta Iolanthe. Throughout the performance, masterpieces of popular music were intertwined with powerful anthems from the male voice choral genre. The genius of Elton John’s ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ and Freddie Mercury’s ‘Somebody to Love’ were showcased alongside the Welsh classics ‘Myfanwy’ and Laudamus (Pen Calfaria). The choir were accompanied on keyboard by John Nicholson and Stephen Berry; the latter of whom, skillfully manned Holy Trinity’s powerful organ, as the choir sang Elvis Presley’s ‘American Trilogy’ and Emrys Jones’ ‘Morte Criste’ (When I survey the Wondrous Cross).


The Choir’s Musical Director, Sian Hatton, guided the audience through the evening. She beguiled the assembly with recitals of Marriott Edgar’s famous monologues, ‘The Lion and Albert’ and ‘Albert’s Return’; seamlessly switching from her ‘dolce’ sweet Sirhowy lilt to broad Lancastrian mill town brogue. The choir’s Musical Director was ably supported throughout by Assistant Musical Director, Shirley Ann James.


Caldicot Male Voice Choir always welcome potential new members. Rehearsals are at the Choir Hall, Mill Lane, Caldicot, on Monday and Thursday evenings at 7:15pm.

Choir Supports Magor School Appeal

Photos by Phil Cody.  Left click to enlarge.


Press Release


On Saturday 26th October, continuing its tradition of supporting local as well as national charities, over forty choristers and the Musical team of Siân Hatton, Shirley Ann James and Stephen Berry, braved the fearsome gales and stormy rain to perform at the new Magor Church in Wales primary School.  The concert was arranged to raise funds for both Magor primary and Undy Church funds.


The choir produced a mixed programme ranging from close to home, the spiritual to the secular, from Africa to America and from film to musical theatre.  The Choir’s programme included Welsh hymns Rachie, Laudamus and Llanfair and the Welsh love song Yfory, telling of a young man’s return from his travels to see his loved one ‘tomorrow’.  Ever popular American Trilogy was followed by the foot tapping rhythms of African Trilogy which included  an arrangement of the South African National Anthem.  From Les Misérables’  ‘Bring Him Home’ to Queen’s ‘Find Me Somebody to Love’; Malotte’s ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, Bizet’s operatic duet ‘The Pearl Fishers’; our version of West Life’s ‘You Raise Me Up’ to the romantic ‘Somewhere Out There’ from the Spielberg cartoon ‘An American Tail’.  More film and theatre music was presented in the form of ‘Can You Feel the Love tonight’ from Disney’s the Lion King and finally including spiritual ‘De Animal’s a’ Comin”, the audience was treated to a wide range of wonderful male choral music to suit all tastes.


The concert was fittingly augmented by the musical talents of the soloist, Caldicot sixth-former Tom Carron who skilfully accompanying himself on the piano, delighted the audience by opening with ‘Chasing Cars’ made famous by Snow Patrol and following with three pieces from Les Miserables; ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, ‘Stars’ and ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’.  Tom hopes to study English at Bristol University next year and he can be seen playing the starring role of Jean Valjean in the forthcoming Caldicot Musical Theatre Society’s presentation of Les Misérables at Caldicot School between 30th November and 2nd December.


All this to the rhythmic accompaniment of the downpour bouncing off the School roof!  Perhaps somebody didn’t like our version of the Lord’s Prayer!  Maybe we should have sung the José Feliciano hit  ‘Listen to the Pouring Rain, Listen to it Pour’? Or to carry on the Les Misérables theme – ‘A Little Fall of Rain’?


Following the concert, the choir bravely, with heads facing into the storm, fought its way against the elements, to the warming comforts of the nearby ‘Wheatsheaf’ hostelry for well deserved and heart warming (if not body) refreshments.


50th Anniversary Gala Concert Charity Success

Press Release

Left click on images to enlarge

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.



Caldicot Male Voice Choir hosts Argentinian School Gospel Choir

Photos by Colleen.  Left click on images to enlarge

Press Release

On Wednesday 10th July, Caldicot Male Voice Choir Hall played host to a triplet of varying musical styles.  We were pleased to welcome the Gospel Choir of St. Georges College from Buenos Aires, Argentina who are on a three week tour in the UK.   Founded in 1898, the college is one of many British type Schools in Argentina and boasts several choirs, one of which is the Gospel Choir.  This choir learns its varied music by rote and its membership is drawn from a mixed ability range throughout the college, without audition.



The evening’s programme opened with Chepstow Community Big Band playing a mixture of band sounds including reminisces of Glenn Miller’s In the Mood,  the sixties theme tune of the Austin Powers films, Soul Bossa Nova, Lester Leapin, featuring a saxophone solo, a tribute to our South American guests, Livin’ la Vida Loca, through to the theme from ‘The Family Guy, then Bird Land and finishing with Get it on, including fine tenor sax, alto sax and guitar solos.


The School gospel choir of about twenty girls and six boys, ranging in age from twelve to sixteen, led by their conductor and pianist Simon Roberts, delighted us all with their enthusiastic and tuneful renderings of Changing my Life, Lean on Me in English and then enchantingly Calejon del Carretero in Spanish.  Once again reverting to English the choir fittingly sang The Reasons Why We Sing and Better me, Better You.  Reverting to their native tongue they sang a tribute to their home city Buenos Aires Hora Caro.  Their wonderful choral presentation of youthful voices ended to rapturous applause from Caldicot Male Voice Choir and audience ended with the swinging jazz of Give me a Star.



Some fifty five members of the Male Voice Choir, accompanied by Stephen Berry and John, Nicholson then astounded the surprised Gospel Choir, who had never heard not only the volume but the melodic range of four part harmony of a Welsh Male Voice Choir before, concluded the evening’s proceedings with an opening of the rousing, foot tapping Alexander’s Ragtime Band conducted by Siân Hatton.  Following whoops of delight from the school, the choir demonstrated its versatility by moving through to melodic An Evening’s Pastorale, African Trilogy, conducted by Shirley Ann James and the solo part sung be baritone Jason Dawe,  modern, romantic welsh ballad Lleucu Llwyd,  the hopeful words of  Yfory and finally raising the roof with a special version of Laudamus which brought the gospel choir to its feet.


The choir is always proud to open its doors to choir and music of all events and following words of gratitude and tribute from the Gospel Choir’s musical director Simon Roberts, the evening concluded with words of praise and encouragement from Siân Hatton to the youngsters to keep on enjoying singing as a wonderful hobby.  Presentations of commemorative choir ties were also exchanged between Simon and Male Voice Choir chairman Leon Jones.  We are sure their visit to Caldicot Choir Hall will be remembered for a long time to come.


An interlude to the proceedings included a ‘Happy Birthday to You’ tribute to Cor Meibion Caldicot Public Relations Officer, Lyn Gauntlett who celebrated his 65th birthday on the evening.  He (me) was delighted to receive individual happy birthday wishes from every single member of the School Gospel Choir at the end.

Choir sings on Choo Choo for Chorister’s Charity wedding


Press Release

Nina and Graham were as teenagers, class mates at Bishop’s Cleeve School near Cheltenham but went their separate ways and never saw each again other for many years until they re-met at a school reunion some four years ago.  Smouldering, hidden embers were re-ignited into flames leading to their civic marriage last Monday, the 1st July and culminating in a wonderful day of celebration on Saturday 6th July.


After leaving the Royal Navy following twenty odd years as a submariner, Graham or Spike as he is popularly known, surfaced to join the ranks of Caldicot Male Voice Choir as a 2nd tenor about 4 years ago and soon introduced Nina to us.  On hearing our wonderful singing, impressed by our good looks and overcome with the spirit and enthusiasm of us all, she soon became one of the choirs leading supporters often travelling from Cheltenham to many of our concerts.  It thus became a great privilege to be invited to sing at their wedding celebration with a difference.  On a steam train!!  It doesn’t get much better than this.


Mr and Mrs Hughes are not the most conventional couple and wanted something different for their special day.  They discovered that the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway near their home runs the 25 miles from Cheltenham Racecourse to Toddington and can be booked for wedding parties. But typically, they went several steps further.  Why not state our marriage vows on the train, they asked and why not have the choir singing there as well?  The Railway soon agreed, as this would be a first for them and so did the choir, because not only would we be delighted to sing at their wedding, to sing on a train during a wedding service would also be a first, probably for any Welsh Male Voice Choir.


So on a tropical, sweltering July evening over fifty odd choristers and the musical team of Siân, Shirley Ann and John gathered together under the picturesque, wooded, shady platform of Cheltenham Racecourse Railway Station to welcome the Bride and Groom down the sloping path to the platform, appropriately with the words of  Annie’s Song, ‘You fill up my senses, like a night in a forest’.  And so we all, with family and wedding guests, boarded the seven coach train, pulled by highly polished, gleaming ex GWR steam engine no. 5542 to make the incredible journey through the verdant pastures of the Cotswold countryside bathed in glorious evening sunshine. For enthusiasts, 5542 is a ”4575” class Prairie tank engine and this one is known affectionately as ‘PFP’, ‘Planet’s Favourite Prairie’.


Preceded by a recording of the choir singing The Lord’s Prayer, Nina and Graham made their wedding vows to each other in a moving ceremony conducted by organiser Sarah Harper-Little while the train wended its slow journey to Winchcombe station.  Poignant readings of a wedding promise were made in Welsh by ex GWR engineer, bass chorister Roy Jones and in English by ex GWR steam train driver, bass chorister Wyn Goodwin.  Has anyone ever done this before?  We all alighted onto the platform, where choir and guests were replenished with copious amounts of refreshments for which the choir responded with favourites including He, May You Always Have a Song and Yfory.  While Nina stood on the steps of the platform bridge to blindly throw a bridal bouquet into eager, outstretched hands, the choir filled the station and village with the romantic sounds of probably Elvis’ most famous song, Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’.   Mike failed to catch the bouquet which fell to a lovely young lady in the front row, who also dropped it.   Before boarding the train again, the day was made special for several of the choristers (and a few wives) to fulfill a lifetime ambition of standing on a steam train footplate.


With hands laden with steaming packets of fish and chips (not to mention beers and lagers) we all boarded the train to make the spectacular journey to Toddington for more photo opportunities and a chance to look around the carriage museum packed to the roof with memorabilia of a by-gone age.  In the glorious evening sunshine, overlooked by a hot-air balloon and following the British and Irish Lions thrashing of the Australian Rugby team earlier in the day, it can’t possibly get better than this!  And so regrettably we made the return journey on this fantastic railway back to Cheltenham Racecourse.  Following a short ride on the footplate of the engine, the couple ascended the ramp of a footpath to the top to witness incredibly splendid views of the magnificent Cheltenham Racecourse stretching into the distance.  At the gate the choir had formed into a long arch of outstretched arms through which the gorgeous couple, bent almost double, moved through while we fittingly sang another Elvis hit ‘Let it be me’.  Nina obligingly gave each chorister a loving kiss (risky for some of them on the warfarin) while they passed through the arch.  Graham avoided controversy, declined to emulate her and just shook each of our hands.


Last year we sang at a concert in the church at Bishop’s Cleeve to help raise over £1300 for Stella’s School Scheme which aims to provide educational opportunities by funding a school in The Gambia.  Nina and Graham are also supporters of this charity and generously asked, not for wedding presents but for donations to the charity.  The charity was represented by Numa who was educated at the school and is now studying medicine in The Gambia and is in the UK on a short 6 week course.  The latest estimate is that nearly £700 has so far been raised.  To read about the Stella’s School Scheme concert, please click on the link


Finally, the choir and guests were delighted to make their way to the Royal Oak in Bishop’s Cleeve where many will remember that we were desperately stranded last year when the bus broke down and we were unable to leave until past 3 in the morning.  Old acquaintances were renewed and the pub once again resounded to the sounds of ‘afterglow’ singing.


This was truly a memorable day in the 50 year history of our choir and those who came shared an unbelievable privilege to be part of Nina and Graham’s special day. We wish them the best of  love, health and happiness for the rest of their lives together.  Thank you both for making it a special day for us as well.  Many, many thanks also to the staff of  The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway for giving an absolutely  incredible experience for all of us. For those who would like to know more about the Railway, please click on the link



A selection of nearly 500 photos taken by Coll.  Right click on the images to enlarge.


Romsey Reunion for 50th Anniversary

Press Release


Photographs by Colleen.  Left click on images to enlarge.



On Saturday 1st June, for the sixth time since the turn of the millenium, on a glorious start to the summer, the choir travelled the 120 miles to the historic ‘Jewel in the Hampshire crown’ of Romsey.  The centre-piece of this beautiful town and burial place of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, is the spectacular 10th century, former Benedictine Abbey which played host to us joining old friends, the Michelmersh Silver Band for a joint concert as part of the choir’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.  The band has recently been promoted to the Championship section of the National Brass Band Championships for the first time in its history, so it is a great privilege and pleasure for the choir to be invited to perform with them once again in this fabulous setting.


Under the soaring vaulted ceilings of the Abbey, the concert, compered by resident band conductor Roland Wright and conducted under the direction of the band’s Musical Director Melvin White, the Silver Band opened in front of a large enthusiastic audience with an electrifying performance of Fanfare and Choral, Laudes Domini  followed by a delightful flugel horn solo of Marianne (Wayne Landen) and then the magnificent Brass Triumphant, written for and often played by the world famous Rhondda Valley Cory Brass Band (now know as the ‘Buy as You View Brass Band’).  The choir, bathed in light and conducted by Musical Director Siân Hatton, opened its first presentation of music from around the world with inspiring Welsh hymn, arranged by the legendary Welsh composer Mansel Thomas,  Llanfair, contrasted by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band, the 15th century Austrian madrigal ‘Innsbruck’ , ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ (soloist Siân Hatton , conducted by Shirley Ann James) from Disney’s The Lion King and American Trilogy  made famous by Elvis Presley.  Choir accompanist Stephen Berry was delighted to support on the refurbished Victorian Walker organ, while fellow accompanist John Nicholson provided the piano accompaniment.  The opening numbers of both the choir and the band were reinforced by the incredible acoustics afforded by the height and length of the architecturally splendid, pillared knave.  Those of us with hair on the back of our necks certainly had it raised!


The first part of the concert concluded with three further pieces from the band including many times recorded New Orleans traditional jazz, Just a Closer Walk (trombone soloist Matthew Curtis), a Soprano Cornet Solo of Demelza (Connie Boler) and vigorous Gaelforce with its stunning percussion parts.


Following the interval, the band re-opened with March O.R.B, Lux Aurumque and Novus Vitae which included a Euphonium solo (Paul Griffiths).  This last piece, meaning ‘New Life’ is a world wide premiere by a Brass band and was written by the composer Darren Bartlett for the christening of his nephews.  ‘The Choir then rejoined the proceedings by opening its second performance with Protheroe’s arrangement  Laudamus, sung in Welsh, romantic Spanish style melody Juanita, You Raise me up made famous by Westlife, a new Queen addition to the programme, ‘Somebody to Love‘ arranged by accompanist John Nicholson, conducted by Shirley Ann James and Freddie Mercury’s solo part sung by Siân Hatton.  Tommy Hole then took the solo part of closing song, O Gymru which tells of the virtues of living in Wales and of being Welsh.


The Silver band then re-entered to give spirited performances of Festival arrangement, Light Walk and An Evening Prayer before being joined by the choir to give a fabulous joint rendition of Welsh hymn ‘Gwahoddiad’ (English ‘Invitation’) before the band closed with Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral.  Both the Michelmersh Silver Band and the Caldicot Male Voice Choir left the audience in no doubt that they had been privileged to have been part of an incredible festival of the sounds of Brass and Voice.


Choir chairman Leon Jones was delighted to make a presentation of a commemorative 50th Anniversary slate plaque and anniversary choir tie to a surprised Adam Smith, chairman of the Michelmersh Silver Band.


Following the concert, members of the choir and the band retired to the nearby Tudor Swan Inn (now the Romsey Conservative Club), facing the statue of Lord Palmerston, born in the town, for a traditional ‘Afterglow’ where the choir continued to enthusiastically entertain the  public with its vociferous, impromptu choral singing.  A plaque outside states that two of Cromwell’s soldiers were hanged from the wrought iron sign support above the door.  When cries of  ‘On the bus, on the bus’  were made, choristers made a hasty retreat in case they fell to the same fate.


Many, many thanks to the Michelmersh Silver Band and all of its supporters for the wonderful welcome, refreshments and hospitality and we hope to meet up with you again at the earliest opportunity.




To find out more about the Michelmersh Silver Band, please click on the link Michelmersh Silver Band”



Caldicot Concert Starts 50th Anniversary Year

Press Release


Photos by Colleen Gauntlett.  Left click on images to enlarge


What better way to start our 50th Anniversary Year than with a concert in our own home town of Caldicot! Almost 60 choristers travelled the short distance from the choir hall in pouring rain to sing to a full house at Caldicot Methodist Church in the town centre to help the church with its fund raising efforts.  There has been a Wesleyan presence in Caldicot since 1807 and the present church was built in 1898.  Following extensive renovations during the 1970′ s and 80’s, together with the completion of a two storey annexe in 1996, the building is now the most imposing feature of the town centre. If you would like to learn more about Caldicot Methodist Church, please click on Caldicot Methodist Church to take you to their website.


Introduced by long standing supporter, compère and Minister Rev. Preben Andersen and packed into an unfamiliar arrangement of 5 rows and all sporting their new 50th Anniversary ties, the Choir opened with the familiar Cole Porter Medley ‘Another opening, another show’ – and what a show we gave!  The choir sang a debut performance of ‘The Music’s Always There With You’, arranged by Stephen Berry and continued with favourites ranging from ‘An Evening’s Pastoral’ through two continents with American and African Trilogies (soloist Jason Dawe), back to Wales with romantic Lleucu Llwyd, inspiring hymns Llanfair and O Iesu Mawr, hopeful Yfory in which a young man is looking forward to returning to Wales to find his loved one, ‘Tomorrow’ and finally O Gymru (soloist Tommy Hole) extolling the virtues of living in Wales – the song doesn’t mention the rain though!


Accompanied throughout the evening by pianists John Nicholson and Stephen Berry (also as organist in American Trilogy and Morte Criste), the choir treated the audience to a mix of varying tempos and styles with the delightful, meaningful hymn ‘He‘, contrasted with the uplifting Easter hymn ‘When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross’ sung to the tune ‘Morte Criste’ and the theme song from Steven Spielberg’s presentation of the Don Bluth cartoon ‘An American Tail’, ‘Somewhere Out There’ and following up with foot tapping Alexander’s Ragtime Band – always a firm favourite.  The choir was conducted and songs introduced (precariously from a box) by Musical Director Siân Hatton, who also celebrates 25 years with the choir this year and, from the same lofty position,  Assistant Musical Director, Shirley Ann James.  Just as well we sang ‘You Raise Me Up’ and there are better ways to go up in the world, girls!


The concert was supported by two wonderful local artists.  Harpist John Thomas who regularly played at Caldicot Castle events, held the audience spellbound as he moved effortlessly through a 16th century Italian Dance, Bach’s prelude No.1, a medley of Welsh folk tunes, Dafydd y Garreg Wen, Pié Iesu, I don’t know how to love him, from Jesus Christ Superstar and many others.  Well known local soprano Joyce Rickards, another long time friend of the choir, stood in when the planned artist became indisposed, with two pieces; one of which was the nostalgic melody ‘My little homestead on the hill’ and the other  ‘Unwaith eto yng Nghymru annwyl – Once again to dear Wales’ both accompanied beautifully by John Thomas on the Welsh harp.


Rev. Andersen closed the evening following extended applause for all participants by praising the quality of the performances, especially the choir.  To quote ‘No wonder Wales is known as the ‘Land of Song’ and ‘the memory of this evening will live with me forever’.  The choir joined with Rev. Andersen to show appreciation for the hospitality and refreshments provided by church volunteers.  The audience and choir left the warmth of the church to face the elements but both continued to be warmed by the fact that they had experienced a truly wonderful evening of music and song.


The Choir is looking forward to continuing its Golden Anniversary with concerts at spectacular venues with a range of new and old songs.  The Annual Concert in April promises to be extra special this year at the Leisure Centre in Caldicot so please contact us for tickets.  It will be a sell-out! Do not be disappointed by leaving it too late.




We’ve recently developed a habit of going through the wrong door at concerts in churches.  This time we nearly joined the Weightwatchers club, but tea and biscuits weren’t on offer so we retreated before we were made to sign up.


Somebody asked ‘why are the first two rows empty?’  The simple answer is that if anyone sat there, they would only hear part of the front row or the piano. We wouldn”t want that, would we?