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LOVIN’ IT! (Singing in Welsh)

From ‘The Libretto’ – July 2011

LOVIN’  IT! Ramblings of a Chorister

I was watching the telly the other night and scanning through the Freeview programme guide for a film on channel 4, which I pressed only to discover that Channel 4 is in fact on Channel 8 and what I actually turned on was ‘Pobl y Cwm’ on S4C.  Brilliant, because although I dislike TV soaps, one of the things I love about the choir is singing in Welsh!  Bearing in mind that my singing in English is questionable, at least singing in Welsh gives me an opportunity to practice miming.  Maybe I look like one of my goldfish, but I hope I’m not like John Redwood singing the National Anthem!  Remember?

Now this really is shameful since claiming to be Welsh myself and remembering that my Nan was a Welsh speaker I really ought to make an effort to learn the basics of the language.   I used to be reasonable in French and German at school so how hard could it be?

So here we go.  I have a mate who’s self taught but fluent in Welsh so I ask him for a few tips. First of all he says that Welsh is easy because it’s phonetic, there is no K, no J and no X except for jam, Jones and Xmas ( classier Welsh people say Nadolig) but there are a few more letters in the alphabet, like RH, LL and that W and Y are sort of vowels.  I discovered that the order of words is totally different to English and that the verb comes first in most sentences and adjectives follow the noun, like in ty bach.  Oh oh!  This is going to be harder than I thought.  So we start with Rwy’n hoffi coffi – I like coffee. Actually I don’t like coffee much but it sounds good so I’ll go along with it.  Rwyt ti’n hoffi coffi – you like coffee, but only for close friends, relatives, children and pets do you use ti, otherwise use Rydych chi’n hoffi coffi.  Oh my God!  What if I use the wrong form to my Auntie Lil, will she be offended?  Probably not, she’s been dead for 10 years.  But what do I say to the cat?  She doesn’t like coffee anyway, so I don’t suppose it matters.  How close do friends have to become before you change from chi to ti?  Before or after you’ve slept with them?  Or just on shaking hands terms?

Anyway, I’m beginning to enjoy it, so I say to my friend “Why is it that Welsh for Wales is ‘Cymru’ but on the sign by the Severn Bridge it says ‘Croeso i Gymru’ with a G?”  “Ah, that’s what we call mutation”.  I immediately think of Mutant Ninja Turtles, but he says that nouns beginning with certain letters following a preposition like of, from, to, in etc., the beginning of the word changes, like C changes to G (cath to gath), P changes to B (pobl to bobl),  G is dropped altogether (gardd to ardd), B to F (bwced to fwced) and so on, but only for feminine words, not masculine.   What! Male and female words like in French and Italian?  I can understand bachgen (boy) is masculine and merched (girl) is feminine but how the ‘ell do you tell the sex of a table?  Bwrdd (table) is masculine but cadair (chair) is feminine.  Wonder what goes on in our dining room after the lights go out?  Do they breed and produce a sideboard?

But that’s only Soft Mutation, there are Aspirate and Nasal mutations as well (like fy Nhadau in the anthem which comes from Tad meaning father) where both masculine and feminine words change after pronouns. And the adjectives change to match as well!  OK, I’m beginning to lose it now. I wish I’d never asked.  But how hard can it be when there are 3 year olds west of Brecon who can speak fluent Welsh?  And apparently sheep dogs respond to Welsh commands!  So don’t shout ‘Stay’ to a collie in Llandovery if it’s got hold of your leg!

Anyway, with my new found knowledge, I go back to choir practice.  Shirley Ann gets onto the podium, adjusts her glasses and when we don’t shut up on the first request, or even the second, she frowns, looks over the top of her glasses and gives a loud shout of “Nawr te! Hisht!” that reminds me of my Nan telling me off when I was a lot younger – no change there then.   Know fear, lads.  Know fear.

“Right, we’ll do ‘Yfory’ to start.  Remember, tenors it’s Gweithio ”.  Pause  –  “No we won’t, we’ll do ‘May You Always Have a Song’ instead” just as some of us have got our copies out.  “And we’ll have a little stand”. LOVIN IT!  Not only do you get to sing in this choir, but you get free aerobic classes as well!  I really don’t understand why some of us groan.  Perhaps we’d prefer a lie down.  I’m glad we don’t have big stands!

We sing it while Shirley Ann helps us with the words and timing.  “ Da iawn!  That was really nice boys (have you taken a good look at us lately?) especially the tenors.  No, really. But you still have to do that last part again, it wasn’t quite right”.   Don’t we know it.  I don’t think Shirley Ann’s got anything against the baritones and basses, I think she says it to encourage the tenors. Anyway, typical teacher – you’ll keep on doing it again and again until you get it right!  “Some of you are still singing ‘song’ when you should be singing ‘love’!  You have to watch me!”  I do, I do, honest!  If we can’t get English ones right, what chance do we have with Welsh?

“Let’s do ‘O Gymru’ now.  Are you alright with the solo bit, Tommy? Ready, Steve.  And we’ll have another little stand. ”   OK, OK the first stand was fine but you’re beginning to wear us out now, not to mention the dizziness and vertigo.

We sing it with such passion, verve and gusto that for once Shirley Ann is stunned into silence.  Eventually she says again “Da iawn! Bendigedig !  That was wonderful boys, really good.  I love coming to this choir.  You’re such a tonic, you really are.  You don’t realise how good you are! Your diction is fabulous.”   At this point some of us are beginning to blush.   It’s not often we get a ’Bendigedig’ even if we don’t know what it means, but it must be good  (I don’t think she literally means we’re adorable or blessed, though).

“Now let’s do ‘Tydi a Roddaist’ shall we?   No, I meant ‘Ti y dy Ddoniau’.  They might sound the same to you, but believe me, they’re totally different”.  Well, that’s Shirley Ann for you, but what would we do without her?  Ryn ni’n dy garu di. What’s this – verbs mutate as well – caru to garu?   Then my mate says, “But Welsh is different in North Wales, it’s more literal and some words are different”.   Oh well!  Let’s get to grips with Myfanwy – is she a close friend or not?  Makes a change from Delilah!

Lyn (Baritone, maybe)

LOVIN’ IT! (Going on-stage)

From ‘The Libretto’ – November 2010

LOVIN’  IT! Ramblings of a Chorister

In October’s ‘The Libretto’ under ZEN TEACHINGS there was a suggestion that if at first you don’t succeed, sky diving is not for you.  Might I suggest the same applies to paragliding off a 7000ft mountain in Turkey.  Funnily enough, that’s not when I did most damage to my leg.  I fell off a one inch pebble in the garden, partly tore my Achilles tendon and tried swimming before it had healed to complete the job properly!   Exercise can be dangerous!

I was in the bath the other night (Coll insists), watching my little plastic boat sail around Gran Canaria, followed closely by a little yellow duck and a pretty little blue dolphin, when I was reminded of all of you on the cruise and wondered if you were thinking of the ones you’d left behind and if you’d ever see them again.  Then I realised that you weren’t under sail bound for Botany Bay, and I thought ‘Don’t be silly!  You’d all be in the bar.’

Anyway, I was beginning to miss you all and looking forward to you coming back and doing our next concert.  Because one of the things I love about this choir is going on stage.

We’re all in what passes for the changing room, making final adjustments to our belts and braces, trying to hang up our bags on a non-existent rail but they keep falling down.  “Anyone got a spare pair of cufflinks?”  “Are we wearing our waistcoats, now or later?”  “Any fluff on my coat?”  “No, only on the Potters!”  The humour and camaraderie never ceases to amaze me.

Now the moment we‘ve all been waiting for.  Mike shouts “Listen to me!  Listen up!  We’re going to line up outside in four rows, tenors to the left, back row followed by baritones and then basses, then the third row, tenors first and so on”.  It’s the ‘so on’ bit that totally confuses us. Besides it’s raining!  “Where do we line up?”  Someone wasn’t listening or couldn’t hear because of all the chatter.  Nevertheless, Mike carries on with “it’s a bit crowded in there but they have provided enough chairs for forty of us.”  Bearing in mind that there’s sixty five of us (this is fiction after all) we can see that there’s going to be a mad dash and a scrum for these seats when the solo performer comes on.  Tactical plans are already being discussed and drawn up for the forthcoming battle.

“Right!  There’s a good crowd out there tonight so when we go in I don’t want any talking like last time.  Hang on!  There are eight baritones in the second row and none in the back.  That’s not right.  How did that happen?”   It seems to happen every time – who’s on a wind-up? So there’s lots of jostling before reluctantly four choose to go into the back row.  Inevitably, they’re the shortest!   Is it because the taller ones are harder to shift?

“When you come off the stage, I want you to break in the centre between Roy and Leon and go to the left and right in single file, row by row.  Go to the back and come down the sides to the seats over by the organ” orders Mike.  Now ‘ang  on, this is getting a bit involved.  Are we Welsh Guards at Trooping the Colour or what?  Ah well, just follow the rest and it’ll be alright?  Trouble is all sixty five of us are thinking the same.  At least we’re in unison!

Off we go in line, shepherded in by Mike as if we’ve got an appointment with Madame Guillotine.  Heads up boys, you’re not going to lose them!  Look enthusiastic as if you’re enjoying yourselves!  No talking and face the front.   All these thoughts are going through our minds. Well mine anyway, but I’m new to this.   We get on the stage more or less in order, not too much chatter and face the front.   Siân gets on the podium, about half of us can’t see her, the piano starts up and off we go, perfectly on time with ‘Llanfair’.   LOVIN’ IT.

We get through half a dozen more pieces to rapturous applause, but now it’s only fair to let the solo artist have a go, so we get the signal to leave the stage.  Leon goes off first with Roy alongside up the centre aisle.  Then Merv is alongside Roger.  Going like clockwork  so far, but then the second row decide they should leave at the same time as the first, but all go to the left because that’s closer to the seats, joined quickly by the third and then the fourth so all semblance of order, like the charge of the Light Brigade, has evaporated.  Mike’s face is a picture of despair, but at least we’re not talking.

The soloist has finished and it’s time for a break, but where do we go and have they laid any drinks on?   They have, but it’s orange squash mixed far too strong so it burns the back of the throat and with half of us having a blood sugar problem, do they want to kill us?  We weren’t that bad in the first half, were we?

Soon it’s time to go outside to line up again for the second half.  This time we’ve got the hang of it. Four rows, equal numbers in each row except we’re 3 tenors short (no, not those).  “We think they’re in the loo” suggests someone. “Well tell ’em to get a move on, it’s piddling down out here as well!”   Or words to that effect!  We all get together; finally in order and with raindrops on our jackets and heads fetchingly glistening under the lights, we march proudly back onto the scaffold, sorry, I mean stage, with chattering teeth, dripping hair and hyperactive from excess sugar and E numbers.  We line up with military precision in our assigned places and wait for Siân to start – and she signals us to SMILE!   Wonderful sense of humour.  LOVIN’ IT!

Lyn (Baritone, maybe)

LOVIN’ IT! (Voice Tests)

From ‘The Libretto’ – October 2010

LOVIN’  IT! Ramblings of a Chorister

As you get older you tend to fall over more often.  The question becomes not how do you get up but what can you do when you’re down there?  Recently, while down on the ground, I reminisced that one of my best moments in the choir was doing the voice tests with Siân.

I’d been coming to practice nights for about 3 weeks when Siân came across to me and said “About time you did your first voice test, Lyn” so I followed her meekly into the back room (thinking – I need the toilet).  She sat down at the piano and asked if I’d ever sung before. “Never had much to sing about really, especially when I’m in the bath and look down” I said glibly.   I soon learned that it doesn’t pay to be flippant with Siân.  “Do you know what range your voice is in? “   she asked with a ‘tut’.  “I don’t think I’m mezzo soprano, baritone maybe”  I hazard a guess.  Sian raised her eyebrows and thought  “Oh, my God!  Not another comedian, we’ve got plenty of them!”  You could see it in the eyes!  Maybe I didn’t learn fast enough.

“Try and follow these notes” as she hit middle C.  I tried my best and squawked out something resembling the peacocks at Farthing House.

“Let’s go a little lower” suggested Siân helpfully.  How low can one get, I thought?  At around D (Bass clef) I think I’m getting the hang of it when Siân goes nearly an octave lower to Eb.  “I just want to see how low you can go”.  Short of limbo dancing under the piano, I couldn’t see how much lower I could get, but I don’t think that’s what she meant.  “Well you did alright and you are definitely a baritone, welcome to the choir.” LOVIN’ IT!

It was announced that I’d passed my first voice test to stuttered applause and I was shoved in between Dai Kirton and Leon Jones as my mentors.  Oh Joy!  Second row!  No hiding place!

This was loads of fun (sic) and they taught me a lot, encouraging me with digs in the ribs and enthusing me with”sing higher, you’re too low!”  I tried standing on a chair, but that’s not what they meant either.  “Perhaps you ought to be in the Bass section” they often suggested, but I thought -“ No, Siân said I was a baritone so a baritone I’ll be”.  I persevered, especially with   the breathing. You can’t sing unless you breathe, I was told.  I’ve also learned that you must use your brain and smile as well – that’s hard!  There’s a lot to learn in this choir, you know!

After 3 more months I was invited to do my second voice test.

Siân asked “What do you want to sing, Lyn?”   Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, my brain went dead and I offered “SHE”.   Big mistake!  We went into the back room and Sian sang the tenor bit at the beginning.  Going pretty well so far I thought.  Not much wrong with that.   I started singing She may be the song that Summer sings nicely, but when I got to She may be the chill that Autumn brings’ the  chill went right down my spine and I more or less froze.  By the time I got to the ‘Oooos’ I’d lost it totally.  Couldn’t remember the words!   Gone! Mercifully to both sets of ears, Sian stopped playing and remarked “Well, you’re nearly there, Lyn.  We’ll try again next week and sing something different.”   I thought ‘Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk’ might be best, but we hadn’t practised that!   NOT SO LOVIN’ IT now!

Anyway, I asked Dai if he’d do the honours and come in with me and I’d sing ‘Take me Home’ which to me at the time was more a wishful thought than a song.  Siân struck up the piano and this time, with Dai’s encouragement we started on ‘I remember the face of my father’.  When we got to ‘I remember my mother was smiling’ it was going really well.  When I left home at the tender age of 18,   I remember my mother laughing her head off and throwing a party after I’d gone so that was appropriate, and can you blame her?

We were in tune and going at the right pace and I hit the high notes as well!   Siân stopped playing after the chorus and commented “That was good, very, very good!”  (She did, really!) “You’ve passed. You can now do concerts!  Can you read music?”  LOVIN’ IT!

I went back into the hall and Mike told me to go between Vince and Tommy and that’s when my troubles really started.  After a few bars of Tydi a Roddaist, they both said, “Perhaps you should be in the Basses, Lyn.  You’re not going high enough.”   Here we go again, more sore ribs!   Perhaps I need a step-ladder. But that’s another story.  At least they shared the Potters Throat Lozenges – even Tom sometimes – after he’d brushed the fluff off.

LOVIN’ IT!

Lyn (Baritone, maybe)

LOVIN’ IT! (Weddings)

From ‘The Libretto’ – August 2010

LOVIN’  IT! Ramblings of a Chorister

After going to my eldest step-son’s wedding in Cyprus, (he took a bigger leap there than I did in Turkey), I sat back and reflected, while sitting on a beach in Agia Napa (yes, really), on why I love going to WEDDINGS with the choir.

I’m reminded of a Mr and Mrs competition we entered soon after I married Coll.  I was asked “What’s your wife’s favourite flower, Lyn?  I thought carefully for a while and after a flash of inspiration said “Homepride!”  I wasn’t in hospital for long and the scars don’t show anymore..

We all meet up in the churchyard, smartly dressed in our blazers and greys and play the traditional game of finding the oldest gravestone in the cemetery.  “Look at this – Elias Jenkins – Died 1832  Aged 90 years.  Alongside his wife Sarah, Born 1814 Died 1914 Aged 100.”  Wonder what poor Elias died of?  Do the maths!  Did he have a heart attack, I wonder?

Anyway, we all troop into the church and squeeze ourselves like sardines into the choir stalls.  “Don’t stand over there with the tenors, Lyn.  You’ll only get confused” advises Siân.  “But the baritones won’t let me in!” says I.  “Turn sideways and make some room”  and they finally relent, but make sure I’m squeezed up tight against a pew so I can’t breathe or sing.

“What are we singing?”  “Fight the Good Fight” is the inevitable answer, but we never do (one day, one day!).  How about ‘Oft in Danger, oft in woe’ – that’s never been done.  “I had that at my wedding” comes a shout from the back.  I’m LOVIN’ IT!   I really am!

Shirley Ann commands sternly, “Now boys, watch me and keep your eyes off that blonde in the third row”.  Good of her to point her out, some of us hadn’t noticed.  We had our eyes fixed on the bust of a brunette in the fourth.

We all take a deep breath, start the first hymn and go for it with such gusto that we finish three bars ahead of the organist before the first verse is over.  What would we do with the “Galloping Major”?  Doesn’t bear thinking about!   Sounds like he needs a dose of Imodium.

We come to the ‘Anyone know of any just impediment ….?’ bit. Necks are craning to the back and many are hoping beyond hope that there will be some response, but there never is.  Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate) never bursts in and neither does Dudley Moore. But the bride is not Bo Derek (‘10’) either.  If she was we wouldn’t be able to sing but we’d all enjoy ourselves.

The bride and groom make their vows and are declared ‘Husband and Wife’. “You may kiss the bride” and half the choir have wishful thoughts “What about us, never mind about him!  What’s he done to deserve that?”  “Go on, give her a good ‘un!” Behave, you’re in Church!

The other half of the choir has mixed thoughts, wistfully dreaming of fond memories and wonder if she’s a good cook, can do the washing and ironing or make a bed.

There’s always one who bursts out with “An’ another one’s gone,  an’  another one’s gone, another one bites the dust!” – just a bit too loudly. Who’s the cynical Queen fan then?  Who thinks he’s Freddie Mercury?  The groom is humming “I Want to Break Free”.  No escape now.

We sing ‘Somewhere Out There’, ‘She’ and ‘Yfory’, while the bride and groom sign their lives away and think of tonight.  Shirley Ann smiles and says “Well done, boys!  Da iawn!  The tenors were really good” and we make our way home or to the pub. Some of us  are not quite sure where to go in the middle of the afternoon.  Tesco?

LOVIN’ IT!

Lyn (Baritone, maybe)

LOVIN’ IT! (The Bus Ride)

From “The Libretto” – July 2010

LOVIN’  IT!

I’m back from my holiday in Turkey, although I nearly didn’t make it after attempting a 7000ft paraglide. The wind dropped and so did I!  Luckily the ground broke my fall!

This made me reflect on life and I suddenly realised that one of the things I love about the choir is

THE BUS RIDE!

You can’t beat the thrill of standing on the side of the road wearing my warm maroon fleece in the drizzling rain waiting with eager anticipation for the bus to arrive!  Will it, won’t it?  It’s now 2 minutes late, 3 minutes, 4, 5, 6, 7 – don’t want to be done for loitering  – here it comes!  Pick up my number 1 uniform – did my wife put my bow tie and cufflinks in?  Too late now!

Why is it that the door always opens the wrong way!  Every time!  Who do I sit by or shall I sit by myself and turn my iPod on?  Perhaps not – I’ve not been forgiven for doing that before.  By the time I’ve untangled my suit bag from the door handle and tripped the light fandango down the aisle, I decide that discretion is the better part of valour and I sit quietly on my own.  There’s no room for my bag in the lockers so it sits on my lap all the way!  Bring on Easy Jet.  Play ‘Bat out of Hell’ on my iPod.  Live dangerously!

Then the really exciting bit starts. “Where do we pick up the Bristol lot? Anybody know? Are they coming on the bus or are they going by car?”  “Anybody seen Steve” shouts a voice from the rear.  “He’s in the front I think” – somebody yells back.  “Anyone know where the place is?”   “Go round again, driver”, “You’ll see Dai Kirton in a minute”.     I’m LOVIN’ IT! I really am!

We do the concert – goes well we think; “Myfanwy a bit flat again?”  Don’t be personal;

“ No, it was the piano – needs tuning” is the lame excuse.  “Good, glad it wasn’t us”.  Who suffers from premature vocalisation?   Who wasn’t watching?  Whose treble was in the bass clef?  The ‘After glow’ is brilliant, the beer better but pricey and at 11-30pm the plaintive cry goes up –‘On the bus!  On the bus!’  The replies are unrepeatable, but they are in unison.

At midnight the last stragglers from the Pub get on, all claiming they needed the toilet or couldn’t find the bus.   “C’mon, some of us have got homes to go to”, says Larry.  “Where’s Dai?”  “With Merv”.   “Where’s he?”  “Don’t know – carry on driver!”  We’re a caring lot, we really are!

The ’youngsters’ at the back keep up the ‘Afterglow’ until the Severn Bridge. “Is Dai on the bus?”, “Dai is, but Merv isn’t!”, “Yes, I am!”  Most of us at the front are watching the little red light to see if the toilet’s vacant before falling asleep.  So after 2 hours of restraint, off I go to the loo.  It’s a work of art to get down the steps, turn around, open the door and squeeze a 15 stone frame into a space designed for an anorexic ferret.   One hand is needed to do the biz and the other to hold on while experiencing the G-force of a fighter pilot.  Skill!  You don’t get this at Alton Towers!   I must go on a diet (wash my mouth out with chocolate!).   How do I get this flamin’ door open?  Thanks lads, for encouraging me up and down the steps, I didn’t realise you could be so helpful.  You’re so good!  NOT!

At last it’s time to get off the bus, so a repeat performance of the light fandango, before tripping over my bag and falling from the bus like a pushed out kidnap victim!  G‘night driver. Bye lads!   See you on Monday!

Can I get home before I need the loo again?  Quiet road, familiar wall. Hmmm………………

Siân, Shirley Ann and all the other girls – you don’t know what your missing.  You really don’t!!!

Lyn (Baritone, maybe)

 

LOVIN’ IT! (Raffle Tickets)

From ‘The Libretto’ – May 2010

LOVIN’ IT!           

When I joined this choir about 18 months ago, little did I realise that not only would I learn new skills in how to warble or croak my way through Tydi y Roddaist in sort of harmony with the rest of you, meet a great bunch of blokes to knock back a few beers with, travel about a bit to obscure places on Exmoor, discover a new meaning to ‘afterglow’ and generally enjoy myself but I would also get the chance to SELL RAFFLE TICKETS at Magor Services! BRILLIANT!

Honestly, it’s great.  You get to meet loads of different people travelling to all over the place; from Blaenavon Pensioners Club off to Minehead for the day (you can always sell a few tickets to these) to couples emigrating to Australia, or going back home to Ireland, Denmark or Switzerland- never to return but they still buy a ticket.  You always get the ones who say they’re in Morriston or Pontardulais or Beaufort choirs and it’s like getting blood out of a stone. Never mind – it’s all part of the fun.

You might think I’m nuts, and you’d be right.  But I’m not the only one.  Leon rushes from work to do a couple of hours before he can go home, Have you noticed how disappointed he looks every time he asks for volunteers! Bill Thomas has been known to do four in a weekend, including back to back sessions, Roy has left his wife’s sick bed to try and flog a couple of books, Dave Scott and John Wysman can’t stay away (if he remembers the times that he put his name down for).  And they’re not the only ones who LOVE IT so much they give up a lot of time and put in a huge effort for all our benefit.

So if you’ve never taken the chance to sell a few raffle tickets at Magor Services or elsewhere then give it a go.  I feel sorry for the choristers who are working or have family commitments because they won’t have the chance, but those of us who are retired or can spare some time, should make the most of it.  Don’t let the few have all the fun, Give it a go.  I, for one will be sorry when they’re all sold and won’t be able to do it any more.

HONESTLY, would I lie to you?  Now would I?

Lyn Gauntlett (Baritone, maybe?)

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