Reflection by Andy Friedman on the Armagh Tour

On stage at Armagh Cathedral

Photograph by Paul Williams

This post is the thoughts of Caldicot Male Voice Chorister Andy Friedman following the return of the Choir from Armagh last weekend. Thanks Andy. Thanks also to Paul Williams for the photo. More to follow.

Caldicot Male Voice Choir trip to Belfast and Armagh: 6-8 March 2020
It was cold when we boarded the coach at Choir Hall in the gloom at 5:30am to begin our long journey to Aonach Myhacha cultural centre in Armagh. We were all wearing our blazers and greys and accompanied by our little Easyjet micro allowances for hand luggage.

It was a long trip by coach and plane and coach, and after seven hours we arrived near the cultural centre. A mere three hours after that we had tasted the local foods and of course the Guinness. We were fed and lined up ready to go onstage in a large room up on the second floor of the fresh paint scented new cultural centre. Then we did an impression of the Grand Old Duke of York’s troops, but instead of marching up to the top of the hill, we marched down the stairwell to the concert area, got most of the way down, stood for 15 minutes, and then marched back up the stairwell as the Irish carried on with their speeches and entertainments. We then marched back down and waited on the stairwell again, and then got to the small stage hardly big enough for the 40 strong Caldicot Male Voice Choir.

Shirley-Anne James was called upon at short notice to give a little speech in Welsh for the Celtic audience, and then we sang our two numbers Rachie and Calon Lan. Then back to Belfast for the evening and next day of being tourists before the coach back to Armagh for rehearsal and performance at the magnificent cathedral.

The trip was marked more by listening to music performed by others than giving our own concert. The restaurants and bars had musicians playing. The cavernous St Georges market in Belfast had entertainments including a yukelli group and a really magnificent guitar trio

Singing on that generous stage among the marble and concrete and under the magnificent staggeringly high ornate ceiling was a thrill. During our rehearsal it became rather obvious that one among us was jacketless. The errant jacket made a particularly spectacular entrance to the rehearsal as announced by the concert master for all to see a wee taxi driver come down the central aisle to deliver to Alasdair Stewart who towered over him and shamefacedly accepted that very expensive jacket. Much speculation among the choristers on the cost of that taxi ride for the imperious jacket. Alasdair did comment on how accommodating the receptionist at the hotel was in extracting the jacket from his room and organising the taxi. This was a theme among us for the weekend. Just how friendly and helpful were the people we met in Northern Ireland. I for one was not only given enthusiastic directions on request but was also taken to where I wanted to go by a few.

Besides our two numbers, Anfonaf Angel and Benedictus and three pieces sung all together among the assembled masses, we shared the event with more than 30 other ‘acts’. They were all of a high standard, with for me the highlight being the innovative and tear-generating rendition of ‘Danny Boy’. Many a sore bum was endured; but ears were delighted. Our own songs were well received by some from the other choirs who filled the huge space in the Cathedral and, particularly gratifying, from Sian Hatton, Shirley-Anne James and John Nicholson

Some sang and drank at the hotel until near 3:00am after the concert in the Cathedral. Many pints of Guinness went down. Amazingly on Sunday none seemed much worse for wear. After most were fascinated, and saddened, at the impressive Titanic Museum, we eventually piled back onto the coach for the smooth journey back to Choir hall, arriving at 00:10 Monday morning. A mere 19 hours before practice.

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