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Musical Director commemorates 30 years Service

 

At Caldicot Male Voice Choir’s practice on Thursday 12th April, the choristers were reminded by chairman John Nicholson, that since March 1988, it is just over thirty incredible years that Siân Hatton took up the baton, so to speak, of Musical Director of the Choir.  Many of the current choristers, several of whom have completed thirty years or more themselves, still fondly remember that day.  Some of our choristers weren’t even born.  To commemorate this achievement, devotion and loyalty, Sian and the Choir were presented with a decorated, lemon sponge cake weighing nearly 14 pounds made by chorister’s wife Colleen Gauntlett who also took the photos.

Utterly devoted to the Choir, Siân regularly, in all weathers with her husband, baritone David Gould makes the long 70 odd mile round trip from her home in Tredegar to Caldicot twice a week to lead the choir in rehearsal as well as attending many social events at the Choir Hall and elsewhere, not to mention innumerable concerts and fund raising events around the country in that time.  The Choir is also extremely fortunate to have in her team musicians of the calibre of Shirley Anne James, Assistant Musical Director and Stephen Berry and John NIcholson as accompanists.

Born into a very musical family in Tredegar, Gwent, Siân began her musical studies at the age of seven and by the time she left school had gained a distinction in Grade 8 singing and piano. She studied at the Royal Welsh College of  Music and Drama under Margaret Tann-Williams and Patrick Piggot. Her distinguished musical career has taken her all over Britain and abroad as a solo artiste.

In her thirty year leadership of the Choir, Siân has taken us to many venues in the U.K. and overseas including Germany, Holland, Canada, California and Austria.  She has led us on two P & O cruise ships to the Mediterranean and later to the Canary Islands, Portugal and Spain.  In 2013 she also led us on a tour to Cornwall and last year to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh and Stirling.

Despite her accomplished musical background, Siân has chosen nursing as her full time career and works as a Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care.

As a conductor, soprano soloist, compère and highly talented musician, Siân is invaluable to our choir and has been the prime instrument to our success over the past 30 years as Musical Director.

 

Choirs mourns passing of legendary chorister

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Caldicot Male Voice Choir was deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the death of long standing and legendary, second tenor, chorister Colin Jones on April 9th at the Royal Gwent Hospital. Colin had been suffering ill health for a few years and was admitted on April 8th but sadly passed away the next day. The Choir fittingly and poignantly paid tribute to Colin by singing Welsh hymn ‘Gwahoddiad’ conducted by Shirley Anne James at practice on Monday.
 
Colin moved from Tredegar to Caldicot in 1963, leaving his job at Ebbw Vale steelworks to work as a fitter and turner at the newly built, giant RTB Steelworks at Llanwern and joined the choir soon after it was founded in 1963. He remained a stalwart, loyal chorister for 53 years and was the first to be presented with a gold lapel badge and certificate for completing 50 years continuous service at the 50th Anniversary Concert in 2013 by Assembly Member John Griffiths AM and Musical Director Siân Hatton. Colin was heard to say that the hardest decision he ever had to make was to retire from the Choir in 2016 and he was presented with a well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award and conferred as an Honorary Vice-president on August 4th that same year.
 
Although Colin served many years on the committee, was chairman in 1973 – 1974 and spent several years as librarian, holding on tenaciously to musical copies unless you could prove beyond doubt that you didn’t have a particular piece, he is perhaps best known for his role as impromptu leader and ‘Beer Conductor’ of many afterglows, His party piece of balancing a full pint of beer on his head while the choir sang ‘Bobbin’ up and down like this’ is legendary from California to Wiesenthal and beyond. He handed these roles onto baritone David Gould (often referred to as Colin’s apprentice) and choristers Karl Gregory and Alyn Dawe. Colin was one of the team which initiated the building of the choir hall in 1996, the progress of which he captured on video; a DVD copy of which is in the trophy cabinet in the hall.
 
Colin toured extensively with the Choir to Canada, the USA, to Holland, Germany and Austria as well as two cruises and many tours and concerts throughout the UK. Even though small in stature Colin was a huge character in the choir and played several major roles both chorally and socially, A strong supporter of Caldicot Rugby Club as well as the choir, there is no doubt that together with his distinctive side whiskers, cheeky grin, imposing presence and strong opinions, never afraid to express them, he will be remembered as a truly great chorister and he will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

 

The Choir’s condolences go out to his widow Margaret, daughter Helen, son Andrew and to all his family at this sad time.

 

Busy weekend as choristers travel to Neath rehearsal for RAH

 

Photos by Lyn Gauntlett

 

Caldicot Male Voice Choir has had a very few busy days in not only attending practices, performing at its Annual Concert, but over forty of its choristers made their way to the Sports Centre in Neath to join about 600 other chorister from all over Wales for a final rehearsal prior to singing together at the Royal Albert Hall on May 19th.

Organised by the Association of Welsh Male Choirs, the massed choristers divided into their sections of basses, baritones, second tenors and top tenors to be put through their vocal paces by Musical Director Dr Alwyn Humphreys of some 19 pieces including Men of Harlech, Comrades in Arms, Cwm Rhondda, Rachie, Shenandoah and many others,

Caldicot Male Voice Choir premiered many of these songs at its Annual Concert on Saturday 7th April in what was a wonderful evening.

The Choir is now looking forward to a fabulous weekend in London, culminating in joining in, as the largest contingent of about 60, with another 800 or so like minded choristers for what will be an incredible evening of song at the Festival of Massed Welsh Male Voices at London’s Royal Albert Hall on May 19th.

Another Great Annual Concert for 2018

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

On Saturday April 7th 2018 Caldicot Male Voice Choir was delighted once again to perform at its Annual Concert for the residents of Caldicot at the local Leisure Centre.

Under the expert guidance of its musical director Siân Hatton, assistant director Shirley Anne James and the accompanist duo of Stephen Berry and John Nicholson, the Choir thrilled the audience with a wide ranging repertoire extending from the walls of Harlech Castle with rousing ‘Men of Harlech’ to the banks of the Missouri with the contrasting melodic ‘Shenandoah’, down to the coal mines of Kentucky with ‘Sixteen Tons’, the Deep South of the USA with the slave spiritual ‘Ride the Chariot’, then on to New Orleans with ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’; across the oceans to visit New Zealand’s Maoris with Pokarekare Ana with the words of Calon Lân and on to South Africa with ‘African Prayer’ an adaptation of the national anthem Nkosi Sikel’i Afrika sung in Xhosa and Welsh.

The journey carried on to the worlds of stage and screen with ‘The Rhythm of Life’ from the musical Sweet Charity and ‘Mansions of the Lord’ from the film ‘Band of Brothers. Wartime memories of the blitz of Swansea in 1941 were brought to mind with the words of Welsh poet Waldo Williams, ‘Y Tangnefeddwyr’ set to music by Eric Jones before raising the roof with ‘A Voice of Singing.   Included was a quick trip to Germany with the hearty drinking song ‘Aus der Traube in die Tonne’.  The choir took a much needed respite and looked heavenward with Malotte’s ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ before returning home to Wales while singing ‘Cwm Rhondda – Bread of Heaven,’ the rousing hymn ‘Rachie’ and the soft, tragic tale of Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn.

During breaks in its world wide journey of song, the choir was wonderfully supported by local prize winning soprano Ffion Edwards, recently returned from her Eisteddfod winning performances who, accompanied by Stephen Berry similarly led us through a wide range of songs from throughout the world.  Starting with ‘What good would the moon be’, to ‘Welsh ‘Mae Hiraeth yn y Mor’, the inclusion of Strauss’s ‘Schön sind doch kalt’ and ‘ Breit über mein Haupt’, the always popular Puccini’s ‘O mio Bambino caro’, to Cornwall’s ‘Poor Wandering One’ from The Pirates of Penzance and including her mother’s favourite ‘Yr Alarch’ – The Swan, also set to music by Eric Jones.  Ffion also sang this when presented with the Geraint Morris Memorial Award at the Choir Hall last October.  As a result of winning this award, Ffion has been invited to sing as guest soloist, along with Caldicot Male Voice Choir at the Royal Albert Hall on May 19th.

The performance finalised with a rendition of the Wesleyan Easter favourite ‘When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross’ to the tune ‘Morte Criste’ in which Ffion, accompanied by the Choir, delightfully sang the soloist third verse.

The whole evening’s journey, thrilling the audience around the world of music, was steered and directed smoothly and humorously on the night by, for the third time at one of our concerts, the immaculate and timely introductions of Dean Powell as host and compère.

The evening ended with presentations to the Musical team, Ffion and Dean with an extra acknowledgement and presentation to Siân Hatton in recognition to her thirty years continuous service as Musical Director to the Choir.  A magnificent achievement and well deserved.

Choir sings for Bloodwise Charity at Bethany Church, Cardiff

Photographs by Colleen Gauntlett.  Left click on the images to enlarge

The Choir last sang at the Bethany Church in Rhiwbina, Cardiff in May 2012 and was delighted to return again on 24th March to perform to help raise fund for Bloodwise, the Blood Cancer Research Charity Cardiff Branch.

In a brightly lit church in front of a small but enthusiastic audience and conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by the accompanist duo of Stephen Berry and John Nicholson, the choir of over 50 choristers presented a wonderfully varied programme of not only traditional rousing Welsh hymns and melodies Rachie, Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn, Anfonaf Angel and O Gymru, but also introduced additional pieces such as Sixteen Tons, Shenandoah and  Men of Harlech.  Blended into the programme were film themes from ‘We are Soldiers’ (Mansions of the Lord) and ‘An American Tail’ (Somewhere Out There), theatrical showtime hits such as The Rhythm of Life together with all-time favourites Stout Hearted Men, Cwm Rhondda, Eli Jenkins’ Prayer, Malotte’s The Lord’s Prayer and the spiritual Ride the Chariot.  An unusual rendition was Calon Lân sung to the Maori tune Pokarekare Ana arranged by Alwyn Humphries and fittingly for Easter the choir included ‘When I survey the Wond’rous Cross’ to the tune Morte Criste.

Included in the evening’s delights, between choir performances, were the wonderfully skilled saxophone performances of Catrin Roberts, a 14 year old pupil of Ysgol Gyfun Cymraeg Glantaf. Catrin is currently studying the saxophone with Naomi Bayley and last year was awarded third prize at the Urdd National Eisteddfod in the year 9 age group  Accompanied by her father, a former musical director of Cwmbach Male Choir on piano, Catrin faultlessly demonstrated her skill with her chosen instrument by playing an aria by Bozza, the second movement of a sonata by Paul Creston and finalising with the first movement of a sonata by Phil Woods.  We are sure Catrin will follow in the footsteps of her talented sisters Elen and Hannah, students at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

With a firm promise from organisers Tom and Gill Jones to bring us back again in the near future, the audience left having been thoroughly entertained by both the choir and soloist, Catrin.   The Choir then departed to take light refreshments at the nearby Deri Inn where until we arrived, the patrons appeared to be all aged under thirty.  Despite the high prices the choir contributed enthusiastically to a rousing ‘Afterglow’ to the surprise and delight of the customers and publican.

Choir Remembers Passed Choristers

 

 

Caldicot Male Voice Choir was honoured and privileged to attend the funeral of well loved and devoted chorister John Wyson at Caldicot Catholic Church on Friday 2nd February.  Following the service the choir was proud to sing Welsh hymns Gwahoddiad and Llef, conducted by Shirley Anne James and accompanied by choir and crematorium organist Stephen Berry at Langstone Crematorium. Like so many others, the choir and its singing filled a huge part of John’s life.

Many well deserved tributes have been paid to John in the past few weeks since his sudden death on January 10th but perhaps his passing gives an opportunity to reflect on all those great choristers, former members of the choir who have sadly died in the past year.  Many believe, wrongly that being part of a Male Voice Choir is an ‘old man’s game’ and for many this may be true.  But we must not forget that many of these ‘old men’ were once young and members of the choir while in their twenties, thirties and forties, many years ago.  They have provided experience, skill, talent but above all loyalty to the traditions of Welsh Male Voice choral singing for many, many years. We must also not forget those choristers, not mentioned here but still remembered who have also devoted a large part of their lives to the Choir over its proud 54 year history.

Sadly, in the past year alone the choir has mourned the passing of recently retired choristers Allen Worwood and Aldwyn Caswell together with serving choristers Doug Taylor, Theo Roberts, Malcolm Reed, Roy Jones, Roland Bennett and most recently John Wyson.  Together they have served the choir for over 250 years, a few devoting 40 years or more of their lives to the choir.  for which the Choir and the Caldicot Community will be forever grateful. While not only enjoying a wonderful hobby, all our choristers through concerts and other activities, have also raised many hundreds of thousands of pounds for deserving causes and charities and without doubt made a huge contribution to the social and cultural life of Gwent.

While paying tribute and honours to the past choristers, the tradition of male voice singing is alive and well in Caldicot with the recruitment in the past few years of well over thirty new choristers, most of whom are relative youngsters of less than forty with a few in their early twenties thus disproving the myth that singing in a choir is an ‘old man’s game’.  We are sure that many of our current members, numbering over 80 will continue to give long and devoted commitment to our choir and ensure that it continues to be among the leading choirs in Wales.

If you would like to learn more of Caldicot Male Voice Choir or would be interested in joining us, please visit the web site at www.caldicotmalevoicechoir.co.uk

Choir opens 2018 with Catbrook concert

Photo by Colleen Gauntlett

Caldicot Male Voice Choir has sung in many prestigious events and venues including many International Sports Stadia, The Royal Albert Hall, huge Cathedrals and Churches and Concert Halls throughout this country, the US, Canada and across Europe, not to mention the National Eisteddfod stage, but few of these compare to the wonderful welcome and enthusiasm for our singing given by the villagers of Catbrook, high up and hidden in the dense forests of the Wye Valley.  Venues such as these remind us of the humble roots of the great tradition that is Welsh male voice singing.

Once again we wound our way through the long and winding forest roads (again in the dark and rain) to arrive at the small Catbrook Memorial Hall to once again entertain the small group of about sixty who always greet us with a warm and encouraging welcome, not to mention the copious amounts of food so generously donated and appreciated.

Conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by Stephen Berry and John Nicholson, the programme not only included traditional songs such as Rachie, Begeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn as well as Somewhere Out There, The Rhythm of Life, the spiritual Ride the Chariot and Anfonaf Angel but also included contrasting performances of ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ and ‘Shenandoah’ showing the versatility of our Choir’s singing repertoire. Solo performances were also made by Siân Hatton who sang ‘Wishing you were here again’ from the Phantom of the Opera and top tenor Peter Hanks who included ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ with words by W B Yeats and the unofficial anthem of Lincolnshire, ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher’ with the audience joining in the chorus.

The concert was followed by a fabulous traditional ‘Afterglow’ in which choristers and the audience are entertained by a wide mix of unaccompanied choir singing.

Once again, the choir left to the plaintive strains of ‘On the bus, on the bus’ with the only regret that it will be another eighteen months before we return.

Choir sings at Cherry Tree Nursing Home

Last night, 21st December the choir was pleased, as part of its Christmas programme to visit the Cherry Tree Nursing Home in Caldicot to entertain the residents and staff with a range of Christmas Carols from its programme. Conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley-Anne James and accompanied by Stephen Berry the choir invited the audience to join in with the singing of favourites such as O Come all ye faithful, Christmas Time again is here, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and God Rest You Merry Gentlemen.
 
The Choir also sang Joy to the World, A Christmas Medley of four well known songs including Jingle Bells, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Sleigh Bells Ringing and A Child is a King. The widely appreciated evening was finalised with Big Crosby’s ‘I’m Dreamin’ of a White Christmas’ before the Choir were treated to refreshments of traditional mince pies and a welcome glass of warming sherry.
 
Following the concert the choir walked around to retired chorister Colin Jones’ home to sing a few carols for him. Colin is unable to get out of the house much due to ill health and after serving in the choir continually for over 50 years he misses it very much. He showed his appreciation by a massive thumbs up and every chorister present shook his hand, even the new members who didn’t know him personally.
 
Afterwards the choristers entertained the patrons of the Haywain public house which is a favourite watering hole of many of the choir.
 
Photographs by Colleen Gauntlett.  Left click on images to enlarge

Choristers consume Colleen’s Christmas Cake

 

The final choir practice before Christmas last night saw Colleen Gauntlett come into the Choir hall with her present for all the choir in the form of a home made, decorated, giant sponge cake. This was, as is usual with all the cakes she makes, eagerly devoured by the choristers on the night (including those with diabetes – naughty).

Colleen has often, in the past 5 years brought in a cake to celebrate special occasions like Christmas, St David’s Day or her husband’s (my) birthday. Her most famous cakes were the five fruit cakes made for the 50th Anniversary which modelled many of the choristers and the Choir badge in 3 dimensions. Her cakes are always appreciated by the choristers, many of whom take a piece home for their wives, although I understand some wives didn’t get piece.

The photo shows Chris Richards, John Nicholson, Colleen Gauntlett, Chris Nolan , Stephen Berry and David Hennesey  waiting for their slice.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone.

Second School Christmas Concert of the Year with Castle Park Primary School

Photos by Colleen Gauntlett.  Left click on images to enlarge

The Festive Season continued in its full spirit when Caldicot Male Voice Choir carolling concerts with a local school continued with the invitation to the children of Years 5 and 6 of Castle Park Primary School to join in an evening of cheerful carolling to an audience of over 100 beaming parents, grandparents aunts, uncles and over fifty choristers on Thursday 14th December.  The first surprise was that an unexpected return visit by Santa Claus thrilled and delighted the children who had already taken to the stage.

Introduced nervelessly by Mason of Year 6, the children gave an enthusiastic and talented performance of a wide range of poems and carols, opening with ‘Here we come a Wassailing’ (introduced by Violet) which is an old English word for ‘a toast’ – Cheers!  This rousing number was followed by Sharima’s introduction of  ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ to which the audience joined in but needed picture cards to remind them of each gift brought by their true love. Cian then told us that Year 5 will sing Welsh folk tune ‘Sospan Fach’ and Cody introduced Year 6 to give a rendition of the poem ‘Colonel Fazackerley’ which tells of his meeting with a ghost which invited himself to Christmas dinner. Summer of Year 5 introduced ‘Something is happening’ a song telling of the story of Christmas and then Anoushka also of year 5 the singing of the traditional ‘Away in a Manger’ in which Evieanna, Brooke and Gracie delightfully sang the first verse.

In a change from the usual concert dress uniform of blazers and greys Caldicot Male Voice Choir took to the stage in colourful Seasonal attire and fancy dress of decorative pullovers and Santa hats.  The Choir’s first half programme, conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson included favourites ‘Casatchok’, ‘Christmas Time Again is Here’ sung to the hymn tune Llanfair, ‘A Christmas Medley’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Shepherds Watch and Wise Men Wonder’.

Following an interlude Caldicot Male Voice Choir returned to the stage to sing their version of hit ‘Silver Bells’ sung by many including Bing Crosby, Doris Day, John Denver, Johnny Mathis and many others, ancient carol ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ played in Supermarkets everywhere, ‘Joy to the World’, Bing Crosby’s famous Christmas song ‘I’m Dreamin’ of a White Christmas’ and finishing with a humorous rendition of ‘The Carol Singers’,  originally written for the male choristers of Manchester Cathedral is a parody of the world’s worst carol singers in which they are finally arrested and jailed by policeman ‘old Bob Bates’ characterised by top tenor Bob Doggett.

Evieanna of Castle Park School Choir welcomed us all back to the second half performance when the choir continued to entertain us with a mix of ”Mary’s Boy Child’, sung to a swing time rhythm and a cheerful ‘Santa Clause’ introduced by Year 6 pupil, Naveah. Kyle then said that the words of a simple song were changed to make it Christmassy – ‘I Wanna Hear Bells’  We certainly did – it was that loud but wonderfully sung.  In contrast, Cieran told us that their version of ‘Silent Night’ which followed was challenging because the last verse ‘Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht’ was sung in German. Well done for a perfect performance.  ‘The true meaning of Christmas’ was told in a poem written by Tom Krause and introduced by Mason of Year 5 before the wonderful performances of the children were finalised by Noah of Year 6 with the loud hand clapping and foot stamping which came as an enjoyable and integral part of  the invitation to ‘Come on and Celebrate’.  It was a good job the staging was sturdy enough to stand up to over 50 children stamping as hard as they could to the rhythm.

The evening closed with a finale of Caldicot Male Voice Choir, Castle Park Primary School and all the audience joining in with the well known favourite ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’

The evening was a great success enjoyed by all and was a reflection of all the hard work put in by the weekly practice of Castle Park Primary School Choir,  Their musical team of Mr M Jones, Mrs S. Wilcher and Mrs T. Withey, together with head teacher Mrs Kay Ford can be rightly and justly proud of their pupils.  Many thanks must be extended to the School’s PTA who provided the refreshments and organised the raffle. Tribute must also be paid to all those choristers who helped set up the hall beforehand and to chorister Leon Jones who provided and set up the Christmas trees and decorations.

 

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