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Choir returns to Caldicot Methodist Church

 

Photo by Colleen Gauntlett

Following its recent performances at the Royal Albert Hall and Buckingham Palace in May and more recently in July at Bristol, Caldicot Male Voice Choir gladly returned to home soil to sing at the local Methodist Church in Caldicot to raise funds for the organisation ‘Count Everyone In’ which supports, through the Methodist Church, adults with learning difficulties. The concert was attended by the organisations founders Pete and Christine Winmill from Newbury and was introduced by minister, Rev. Preben Andersen, a keen and enthusiastic supporter of the Choir..

Conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied on piano by John Nicholson Caldicot choir’s concert consisted of many of the pieces sung in Bristol to entertain a welcoming home audience.  The Methodist Church always gives us a warm and appreciative welcome.  As well as Welsh favourites, Rachie, Anfonaf Angel, and Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn, the choir delighted the audience with Shenandoah, With a Voice of Singing, Somewhere Out There, Eli Jenkins’ Prayer and You Raise Me Up, made famous by Westlife and many others in the first part of the concert.

The choir was supported by father and daughter partnership, Gareth and Catrin Edwards.  Catrin delighted us with clarinet arrangements of In ‘Dream’ and ‘Into the West’ composed by Shore from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Calon Lân and Cwm Rhondda while Gareth accompanied his daughter on the church organ.  Later Catrin delighted us further with clarinet arrangements of Wiegenlid (Brahms), Nocturne (Chopin), Ascot Gavotte from My Fair Lady (Lerner and Loewe) and finally The Lord’s My Shepherd (Townsend) while her father Gareth accompanied on piano.  Catrin celebrated her 15th birthday recently and has been learning the difficult clarinet instrument since she was five years old. A pupil of the Welsh medium school Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool she has taken time out from her GCSE exams to play for us at the concert.

Caldicot Male Voice Choir continued its programme in the second part with more Welsh favourites such as Cwm Rhondda,and Gwahoddiad and included A Miner’s Song, Ride the Chariot, the German drinking song Aus der Traube and the Tennessee Ernie Ford hit Sixteen Tons.  The concert finalised with the well known him ‘When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross to the tune Morte Criste in which Oliver Edwards although attending in his role as Mayor of Caldicot, is also a 2nd bass chorister of the choir and was invited to join the choir by Musical Director Siân Hatton.

Rev. Andersen was pleased to later inform us that the concert raised £264 in voluntary contributions for ‘Count Everyone In’.

Choir Sings with touring American Choir

On a blistering July 10th evening Caldicot Male Voice Choir made the short journey over the bridge to the magnificent Bristol’s Staple Hill Methodist Church to join the 35 strong touring Marvin United Methodist Church Chancel Choir from Tyler, Texas, USA.  This choir which included young members of the Bella Voce choir from the same town are touring the south of England over six days.  Before appearing with us they had earlier sung a lunchtime recital at the oldest Methodist Building in the world at the New Room, Bristol. The tour included concerts at Hampton Court Palace, Worcester College, Oxford and finalising at Southwark Cathedral.

Conducted by Musical Director James Broussard, the Texas Choir assembled up the steps behind the altar to give a stunning opening performance of a mix of American Spiritual music in

various styles including Shaker arrangements and all sung amazingly without accompaniment. Their pieces included several thrilling and amazing bass, tenor and soprano soloists from among its number.  This was followed later in the evening, following Caldicot’s two performances by an equally amazing performance.

Caldicot Male Voice Choir, conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson on piano, performed either side of the interval by singing a range of items from its repertoire including Welsh favourites Rachie, Robat Arwel’s arrangement of Anfonaf Angel, Cwm Rhondda, the love story of Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn, Gwahoddiad and the resounding Yr Tangnefeddwyr , the poem by Waldo Williams recalling the wartime bombing of Swansea.  Caldicot delighted the Americans, who had never heard a Welsh Male Voice Choir before, by including Shenandoah, Somewhere Out There from the Spielberg cartoon American Tail and the spiritual Ride the Chariot.  Caldicot’s versatile programme also included A Miner’s Song, composed by Dan and Laura Curtis and the rousing pair Comrades in Arms and Men of Harlech.  The concert concluded with the choir and audience singing Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau from the Gallery.

Caldicot Choir were delighted by the many expressions of praise heaped on them by the American Choir who later joined us at the Staple Hill Oak pub for a taste of British hospitality. This was the third occasion where we have joined with a touring American Choir in recent years.  The previous were at St Peter’s Church Cardiff in 2016 (Tapestry Choir, California) and 2017 (San Jose Symphonic, California) and it looks forward to greeting many more in the future.

The concert was held to raise funds for The St Peter’s Hospice in Bristol and it raised well over £1000 for the charity.

Choir meets Royalty at Buckingham Palace

Photos from Choir members.  Left click to enlarge.

 

Following on from an incredible weekend in London, which included a performance at the Royal Albert Hall, 65 members of Caldicot Male Voice Choir returned early on Tuesday 22nd May to provide Welsh choral music at Buckingham Palace by singing for Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and newly weds Prince Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at a Garden Party which formed the start of Prince Charles’ celebration of his 70th Birthday on November 14th.

The Prince of Wales invited over 7000 guests who represented organisations of which he is the Patron together with representatives of the Emergency Services, Medical teams and military connections of which he is the Colonel in Chief.As part of the programme which included the Band of the Welsh Guards, The National Pipe Band, The Genesis Gospel Singers, Côr y Bro, a mixed voice choir from London, Caldicot Male Voice Choir entertained the 7000 guests at 4-30pm outside the Royal tea tent, set against the lake.  The choir’s programme, conducted by Siân Hatton and Shirley Anne James and accompanied by John Nicholson and Siân included of course Cwm Rhondda, Anfonaf Angel, Llanfair, Rachie, Men of Harlech, God Bless the Prince of Wales and as a special inclusion for the honeymoon couple the choir included the romantic Everley Brothers hit, Let it Be Me.

Following our performance and a delicious round of sandwiches, cakes, tea and other treats we were delighted that Prince Charles and his wife Camilla came into the Royal tent to join us and chat to several of he choir members including Siân Hatton (that’s my husband over there said Sian) and Shirley Anne James our two musical directors. The Prince and Camilla congratulated both on the performance and noted that we had appeared at the Royal Albert Hall.  Other choristers spoken to were Andy Friedman, Roger Francis and Garry Keeble who had met the Prince at the opening of the first Severn crossing. ‘That was a long time ago’, commented the Prince.  Moving along the line the Prince and Camilla had a brief chat to a number of choristers,including David Currie, Ron Powell, David Gould, John MacArthur and Lyn Gauntlett.  Among many questions the Prince asked which sections did they sing in and thanked them for their hard work and for coming to his party.  Bass chorister Oliver Edwards was introduced to the Prince as the youngest Mayor of Caldicot Town Council and the thrilled Bill Nash was introduced as probably the oldest, active chorister in Wales at 95 years of age. On departing, the choristers conveyed their thanks for the invitation and wished Prince Charles a very happy birthday.

Choir Appears at the Royal Albert Hall

On the steps of The Albert Memorial at Hyde Park before the rehearsal
Again formed up on the steps of the Albert Memorial just before the concert
The Concert Programme

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

 

What an incredible occasion!  The culmination of 18 months of hard work practising and learning twenty pieces for this fabulous event.  There were times of despair, thinking that we would never learn all these pieces, some familiar, some totally new to us but in the end we got there by shear determination.

About 60 of Caldicot’s finest joined as the largest single contingent with more than 700 or so other choristers from another 27 choirs across Wales and a few including Mansfield Welsh, Snowdown Colliery Welfare from Kent and Oxford Welsh from England made their way to London to join in the Festival of Song, held only every three years.  Gwent was also represented by Abertillery Orpheus, Beaufort and Pontnewydd Male Choirs,

The Massed choir was conducted by Dr Alwyn Humphreys MBE and accompanied by Caradog Wiliams who appeared at our Choir Hall at our 2017 Annual Concert.  Solo artistes included Magor’s Ffion Edwards and Caldicot choir is proud that it sponsored Ffion to enter the competition and that she was thrilled to appear with us at this year’s Annual concert.

The audience leaped out of their seats to the tremendous, explosive sound of nearly 800 voices opening up with Welsh Hymn, Llanfair, accompanied by the magnificent Royal Albert Hall organ played by Huw Tregellis Williams.  Things calmed down a little with the gentle refrain of Ar Lân y Môr and then back to the finishing crescendo of Stout Hearted Men.

In the programme, this alternation of loud and soft continued throughout with offerings of There is No Death, delightful Anfonaf Angel and Morte Criste conducted by Mair Lewis, musical director of Swansea Male Choir.  Among the more memorable pieces, although how can we forget any of them were Cwm Rhondda, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, the wonderful poem Y Tangnefeddwyr and African Prayer both set to music by Eric Jones who was in the audience.

The whole evening was complemented by wonderful performances from winners of the Geraint Morris Award;  Rhydian Jenkins (2015), Ffion Edwards (2016) and Samantha Oxborough (2017) and completed with the eighteen incredible voices of the Bella Voce Ladies Choir from Pembroke

Exhausted but wonderfully happy, the choir left to return to its hotel for an Afterglow of singing in a crowded lounge to be joined in our version of A Grandfather’s Clock by none other than Alwyn Humphreys himself.  Dai Gould would not give up the baton though.

If you would like to join this incredible choir, please visit our web site www.caldicotmalevoicechoir.co.uk or come along to our Choir Hall in Mill Lane, Caldicot on any Monday or Thursday evening.

Choir meets up with Whitland MVC

About 850 choristers from 49 male voice choirs are travelling to London to take part in the Festival of Male Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening May 19th.

 
Caldicot Male Voice Choir is the largest single contingent with over 60 making the trip but many of its choristers and their wives took time out yesterday, 13th May to join up with Whitland and District Male Voice Choir at the Old Ferry Inn at Beachley near Chepstow.
 
The Whitland choristers have been cycling around Wales visiting every choir that is taking part in the Festival of Massed Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall. The aim of the cycle ride was to raise £3,000 for Prostate Cymru which is the nominated charity of the Welsh Association of Male Choirs who are the organisers of the event in the Royal Albert Hall. The latest news is that nearly £5000 has been raised so far.
 
The choristers will end their cycle ride at the steps of the Royal Albert Hall on Friday, May 18 and will present a cheque for their donation to representatives of Prostate Cymru.
 
On their final journey from Pembrokeshire to London they stopped off at the Old Ferry Inn after cycling 126 miles in a day before continuing on Thursday to meet up with Oxford Male Voice Choir at Cowley.
 
Caldicot Male Voice were pleased to welcome them on their penultimate leg and provided their guests with an evening of afterglow singing led by chorister Dave Gould and was later delighted to present Gareth Edwards of Whitland Choir cyclists with £140 collected by bucket contributions. In a similar vein Caldicot Choir is proud to have raised £8500 in 2015 for Prostate Cymru with a wide range of events throughout the year.

Redwick Cycle Challenge a great success

Caldicot Male Voice Choir is not just about singing in a great choir, which has obvious health benefits but it also has an active cycling club, Côr Meibion Caldicot Cycle Club and Golf Society, the ‘Birdie Boys’ which hold events to raise money for charity.

On a glorious Spring day just right for cycling around the Caldicot Levels, Sunday 13th May saw the cycle club stage its annual Redwick Challenge where participants are invited to ride their bikes around the 2 mile circuit at Redwick.  Competing not only with early morning cows going for milking, a charity road run and a huge christening at Redwick church some thirty riders, including fifteen choristers took up the challenge.  Between them they completed 581 laps of the 2 mile circuit totalling a magnificent 1133 miles.

The overall winner was Sam Stephens who completed 47 laps (92 miles) and the best female was Lesley Russell with 40 laps (78 miles). Each was presented with a trophy for their outstanding efforts, whilst the competition for the ‘Theo Roberts Memorial Trophy’ was again won by the Baritone section. The chorister completing most laps was top tenor Rob Stallard who completed 46 laps (90 miles).  A total of £457 was raised to help the choir carry out its concert programme to raise funds for local and national charities.

Many thanks to the Rose Inn for supporting the event and to local farmers for their cooperation and patience.  These events would not take place without a great support team of Grahame Morton, Harry Giblin, Chris and Kirstie Nolan, Dave Kirton, Dave Currie, Dave Hennesey, Jayne Stallard, Siân Hatton, Colleen and Lyn Gauntlett on the camera. Many others, including choir chairman John Nicholson also came to give their support and encouragement.

 

Photos by Lyn Gauntlett

CHOIR CHOSEN TO SING AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE

On Saturday the 28th April, on our return from the wedding of Michael and Rachel at Mathern, we were thrilled to receive the following notification by e-mail from the Welsh Association of Male Choirs confirming that we will be representing it at Buckingham Place on May 22nd.

HRH The Prince of Wales is Patron of the WAMC and as such his office invited the Association to recommend a Welsh male choir to share in his birthday celebrations.  To be fair this was to be done by a draw of interested choirs and since our interest was expressed we were entered. I’ve reproduced the e-mail sent to us by Ellis Davies, chairman of the Association below.

This is a very prestigious event for the choir following our appearance at the Festival of Massed Voices at Royal Albert Hall and will mean a lot of practice to get us as near perfect as we can.  If you look at the list you will see that there are several outstanding choirs, including Morriston Orpheus, Treorchy, Swansea, Dowlais who were interested so we are representing them as well.  We’re not just representing the Association and Caldicot but the whole of Wales.  A huge responsibility but I’m sure we’re up to it.

Further details will follow but this is all we have at the moment. Be patient.

 

To all Member Choirs and the WAMC Executive Committee

16 Member Choirs put their names forward to represent the WAMC at the Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, 22 May.

A draw was made at the 12 Knights Hotel, Port Talbot today to select the choir with Caldicot Male Voice Choir being drawn out first.
Aber Valley Male Voice Choir were drawn out second and will be the ‘Reserve Choir’ if Caldicot cannot attend for some unforseen reason.

In the interest of impartiality, the draw was made by Victoria Prydie, the Manager of the 12 Knights Hotel in the presence of myself and WAMC Vice-Chairman, Richard Howells.

Congratulations to Caldicot Male Voice Choir on being selected and my thanks to the remaining choirs listed below for putting their names forward:-

Alcester, Blaenavon, Bois Goetre-Hen, Builth Wells, Côr Meibion De Cymru, Cowbridge, Dowlais, Flint, Morriston Orpheus, Oxford Welsh, Pelenna Valley, Swansea, Treorchy & Ystrad Mynach.

Ellis Davies
Chairman ~ Welsh Association of Male Choirs

Choir Sings for Chorister’s son’s wedding

Photograph by Colleen Gauntlett

On Saturday 28th April, Caldicot Male Voice Choir was privileged to sing at the wedding of Michael John Griffiths to Rachel Elizabeth Davies at St Tewdric’s Church, Mathern near Chepstow.  Michael is the son of baritone chorister Anthony Griffiths and his wife Carolyn Griffiths and Rachel is the daughter of Steven Davies and Elizabeth Ridler-Davies.

The choir, conducted by John Nicholson and accompanied by Stephen Berry welcomed the incoming congregation with Yfory (Tomorrow) and You Raise Me up before joining in enthusiastically during the service with selected hymns ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and ‘Love Divine accompanied by church organist Dorothy Harris. The service was conducted by Rev. Julian White who put the nervous bride and groom at their ease with a number of anecdotes and friendly chat.

Following the vows and exchange of rings as an essential part of the ceremony, the couple together with the wedding party retired to the rear of the church for the signing of the Register while the Choir continued to entertain the well wishers and congregation with ‘Somewhere Out There’ from the Spielberg animated film American Tail and the romantic ‘Let it be Me’ made famous by the Everley Brothers.

The couple left to the strains of Mendelsohn’s traditional ‘Wedding March’ before assembling outside for photographs with the Choir, who for once were all smiling.

The Choir would like to wish Michael and Rachel every happiness in their future lives together.

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.

 

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