The Welsh Blood transfusion service is coming to the Choir Hall in Caldicot next week (13th and 14th July) and again in August. Caldicot Male Voice Choir is proud to be supporting the Welsh Transfusion Service, so if you are able and willing please book your appointment. This can be done using the link https://wbs.wales/ChoirHall07
All precautions are taken to keep you safe from the Covid-19 virus.
Many thanks once again for the support of the South Wales Argus by publishing the article in Grassroots last Monday. This makes 21 published since the start of lockdown. It relates to the presentation at Caldicot Male Voice Choir of long service awards to Wyn Goodwin (25 years), Bill Nash (50 years) and Peter Heslop (50 years) by Musical Director Sian Hatton, John Griffiths SM and Jessica Morden MP.
Congratulations to Wyn, Bill and Peter for their continuous long, dedicated and loyal service to the Choir. Each was presented with a special, unique lapel badge and certificate.
It has been nearly 15 months since Caldicot Male Voice Choir has been allowed to sing as a whole but it was thrilled to be able to sing together on 28th June outside its Choir Hall in Caldicot.
It has been a tradition in the past 12 years to present long serving choristers with a unique commemorative badge and certificate to recognise the achievement of more than 25 or 50 years’ continuous service. Until yesterday there have been 36 recipients of the completion of 25 years and 3 recipients of 50 year awards.
It was with great delight that this list was added to with the presentation after much delay, of a 25 year award to bass chorister Wyn Goodwin and of 50 year awards to bass chorister Bill Nash and baritone Peter Heslop. The presentations were made by Jessica Morden MP, John Griffiths SM and Musical Director Siȃn Hatton. Also in attendance was long standing supporter and a Vice President, the Mayor of Caldicot, Jim Higginson. Chairman John Nicholson accomplished a magnificent job as Master of Ceremonies in difficult circumstances.
The presentations not only recognise the dedication and loyalty of recipients but also demonstrate that singing in a Choir is a wonderful hobby, learning new skills and sharing common experiences, memories and friendships that can last a lifetime.
Following the ceremonies about 45 choristers gathered together outside the hall and conducted by Siȃn Hatton and accompanied by Stephen Berry the assembled Choir presented the appreciative audience with ‘Cwm Rhondda’, ‘Ar Hyd y Nos’ and ‘African Prayer’.
All participants were then invited to partake of an outdoor complimentary drink to commemorate being able to meet up after so long. A wonderfully enjoyable evening and thank goodness the rain kept away, but it was a bit chilly.
John Griffiths MS said: “It was great to see the choir back together again and doing what they do best. It’s been a difficult time during the pandemic – but the return to practice is hopefully a sign of a return to some normality. Music brings communities together – and this is very much the case with the Caldicot Male Voice Choir whose melodies are a joy to behold.”
Jessica Morden MP said: “It was fantastic to hear the choir again. They were on fine form singing together outside the Choir Hall (the envy of many choirs in South Wales) for the first time in 16 months and honour the long service and commitment of choristers Bill, Peter and Wyn who combined are celebrating 125 years of singing with the choir.”
Very pleased that The South Wales Argus Grassroots section published my short article yesterday about Caldicot Male Voice Choir’s organised sponsored walk on June 12th from Chepstow Castle to Magor to raise funds for its nominated charity The Welsh Air Ambulance. Thanks to chorister Tony Griffiths for organising.
Caldicot Male Voice Choir is very grateful to the Argus for its support during these difficult times.
Although Covid-19 restrictions have been eased allowing Caldicot Male Voice Choir to begin limited practices in the Choir Hall, the choristers still cannot fully get back together again.
A major part of being a member of the choir is its social life so the Choir’s associated Golf society, ‘The Birdie Boys’, captained by chorister David Gould have been out and about playing golf this time to picturesque Wernddu Golf course. This 18-hole course near Abergavenny is framed by the nearby Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons and 11 choristers took advantage of a gloriously sunny June 5th June to compete in a Texas Scramble tournament amongst themselves.
The winners of a friendly, enjoyable tournament were a team consisting of choristers Tony Griffiths, David Hennesey, Steve Davies and guest player Andy Yearsley. The ‘Nearest the pin’ prize was won by Tony Griffiths.
Other choristers taking part were organiser David Gould, Leon Jones, John Nicholson, Maurice Penny, Andy McDonnell, Ron Powell and guest Carl Powell.
As well as providing a chance for choristers to get together, ‘The Birdie Boys’ also play to raise money for local and National Charities. This year they are hosting a tournament at the Llanwern Golf club to raise funds for the Welsh Air Ambulance.
Near the Leisure Centre in Caldicot, there proudly stands a unique red brick building where, above its doorway is emblazoned the badge of Cor Meibion Caldicot and the words Choir Hall, Croeso, Welcome. Few who enter this incredible, purpose designed hall will realise the dreams and efforts of those who in 1996, 25 years ago made this unique building the home of Caldicot Male Voice Choir.
The dream was held for 28 years while a suitable plot of land should become available but it remained elusive for many years. Meanwhile practices like so many other choirs, carried on in local school halls, in particular Green Lane School.Finally land adjacent to the Leisure centre was found and the lease signed in April 1992.
A period of four years of intensive fund raising began and with the help of substantial grants from the Foundation of Sport and Arts and the National Lottery, sufficient funds were in place by September 1995.
Many hours were also spent with Community Design Gwent and Sarah James, the architect before the plans and design were eventually approved by Monmouthshire County Council. The final contract to build was awarded to Messrs. White Brothers and Speed of Newport and the first turf was dug on January 16th 1996 in heavy snow.
Many were involved in realising the dream but special mention must be made, not least of Secretary Islwyn Watkins, Treasurer Mervyn Roberts and President Richard Evans. The hall was finally opened during a weekend of celebration from 20th to 22nd September 1996 by Dr Terry James culminating in a Four Choir Concert on the Sunday including not only Caldicot, but choirs from Risca, Cwmbran and Blaenavon.
The hall has seen many changes in the last 25 years including two extensions and a mezzanine floor to hold office space and the library due largely to the efforts of chorister Leon Jones. It has its own fully licenced bar and state of the art sound and projection systems.
With a seating capacity of up to 200 people, it is open by arrangement to benefit the local community for not least wedding suppers, charity events and concerts, live TV showings of Wales Rugby matches, social events and corporate business events and has recently hosted the working of charities such as The Welsh Blood Transfusion Service, Mind and Caldicot Food Bank.
There is no doubt that the building of the Choir Hall in Caldicot after so many years of dreaming, planning and construction has furthered the culture of Welsh Male Choral singing and has provided an essential asset to the Caldicot Community.
The Choir looks forward to the ending of Covid-19 restrictions so that it and the local community can once again enjoy the marvellous building that is Caldicot Choir Hall.
A good friend of Caldicot Male Voice Choir, Dean Powell whom you may remember has compered a number of our concerts at the Leisure Centre in Caldicot has recently published a book relating the intense rivalry and history of Male Voice choirs in Victorian times in South Wales.
As well as his choral singing talents and compere abilities Dean is a well respected historian, particularly of Rhondda Valley history and is probably the leading authority on the history of Dr William Price of Llantrisant. Dean was also largely responsible for the restoration of the medieval Guildhall in Llantrisant which is well worth a visit.
Rival Welsh choirs and their fight to gain Queen Victoria’s royal seal of approval is revealed in this enthralling new history book celebrating the rich culture of a “land of song”. “A Royal Choir For Wales” by historian Dean Powell gives a fascinating insight into how nineteenth-century Wales evolved to become a heartland of choral singing against the background of heavy industry and hardship.
Galvanised by a strong musical and religious intensity, the valleys became volatile melting pots of migrant people who collectively united in song and created a growing new working-class culture. Dean Powell explained: “We’d be mistaken for believing that the Welsh choral tradition was simply a peaceful pastime born out of religious revivals which saw choirs performing in harmony with one another”.
“There was a strong competitive element due to the growth of the eisteddfod movement. Emotions ran wild and crowds followed their home choirs by mobilising armies of supporters with inflamed passions and an eagerness to win”.
“Choral competitions drew crowds of thousands of supporters – far more than international rugby games of the period – and this musical fanaticism caused heated encounters, brawls in the street, gambling behind the scenes and attempts to sabotage performances.” The new book explores the role conductor Griffith Rhys Jones “Caradog” played when his 400-strong South Wales Choral Union triumphed at the Crystal Palace.
The victory inspired the formation of two prominent male voice choirs from the Rhondda Valleys who battled for glory both on and off the competitive stage.
William Thomas and his Royal Welsh Choir and the neighbouring Rhondda Glee Society led by Tom Stephens dominated the eisteddfod arena. Dean added, “During the final decades of the nineteenth century the conductors became national heroes and arch-rivals. “They led their singers on world-wide tours the likes of which we’d never seen before, but their greatest desire was to win the approval of the Queen Empress of Great Britain and her Colonies. The question is who would win the crown?”
Filled with rare images and personal memorabilia collected by the descendants of the conductors, this is the first time the majority of them have appeared in print.
Priced £12.99, copies of “A Royal Choir for Wales” are available by contacting email@example.com
Welsh Blood Donor sessions will take place at the Caldicot Choir Hall in Mill Lane, Caldicot on April 7th and 8th. The posters show it all but you can book directly by a click on this link. Alternatively copy and paste onto your web browser address bar. https://wbs.wales/ChoirHall04 If you can’t make the date at Caldicot check out the other locations and dates on the same link.
A tribute article of King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu Nation following his death on 12th March was published in the South Wales Argus Grassroots section on 22nd March. Caldicot Male Voice Choir sang for him at the special pageant at Brecon Barracks on July 21st 2019 to mark the reconciliation of the UK with the Zulu Nation after the Zulu War of 1879.
Photos by Colleen Gauntlett
THE FULL ARTICLE
On July 21st 2019 Caldicot Male Voice Choir was privileged to be invited to take part in a special pageant at Brecon Barracks to celebrate the reconciliation between the United Kingdom and the Zulu Nation of the ‘Zulu War’ of 1879.
This war was infamous for the Battle of Isandhlwana where over 1400 British troops were killed and for the defence of Rorke’s Drift by 24th Regiment of Foot South Wales Borderers later the same day.
Caldicot Male Voice Choir has sung on a number of occasions for Royalty but none more unusual than this occasion to perform for King Goodwill Zwelithini, the King of the Zulu Nation alongside his bodyguard of Zulu warriors and accompanied by the Band of the Royal Welsh Regiment conducted by Major Dennis Burton. In attendance were his wives, Princes and Princesses. At the Beating Retreat Ceremony, the Choir sang the three National Anthems of the Nations involved, Mae hen wlad fy Nhadau, N’kosi Sikeleli Africa and God Save the Queen.
Sadly we have just learned of the passing of King Goodwill in hospital in Nataal, South Africa on 12th March at the age of 72. It is believed that he died from diabetes related complications.
The Choir will remember meeting him at this special occasion for many years and a similar photograph to the one above is proudly hanging from the wall of the Choir Hall. The Choir has passed on its condolences and sympathy to his family and the Zulu Nation.
It was reported in January that an active member of Caldicot Male Voice Choir, Bill Nash had remarkably reached his 98th birthday. Since then two members, Dave Kirton and Peter Hanks celebrated their 78th birthdays on the same day January 16th.
To many this would seem to perpetuate the myth that being in a Male Voice Choir is a pastime dedicated solely for grey haired, elderly gentlemen. What is forgotten is that Bill joined his first Male Voice Choir at the age of 14 and that Dave, like so many of the Choir members joined the Choir over 30 years ago when they were in their forties or even younger. In common with Bill Nash, current active choristers John Evans, Peter Heslop and Dave Gould have each completed over 50 years’ service and joined when they were in their twenties. Current vice chairman, Leon Jones joined 3 months before his 18th birthday and has completed over forty three years’ service. Baritone Liam Evans at 25 and Craig Howells, also 25 are the Choir’s youngest. Craig joined in 2013 at 18 years of age and proudly followed his grandfather Owen and father Anthony into the Choir.
To further dispel the myth, in common with most Male choirs, Caldicot has a high proportion of choristers who are less than forty years old and some who are less than 30. The Choir presents those who have served more than 25 years with a certificate and silver badge when they achieve this milestone. To date, and since the Choir was formed in 1963 there have been 37 recipients although sadly some are no longer with us.
Caldicot Male Voice Choir is not alone in being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and has not been able to meet since it returned from its tour of Armagh in March 2020. This sensible approach has been taken to protect vulnerable members of the Choir from the effects of the virus and fortunately only a few caught the virus and these are on the way to a full recovery (there has been at least one case of hospitalisation reported in December).
The latest news is that most of the over seventies and many of the over sixties have now had either the Pfizer or Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine with almost no side effects apart from a temporary stiff arm However, most had the injection in their non-drinking arm so their lives were not affected too much.
However, loneliness, depression and a sense of loss has hit a number of choristers who are dreadfully missing the comradeship of being in a Choir and it is hoped that when the vast majority have had the vaccine it will be able to meet again shortly and begin to sing not only in unison but in restored harmony.
The Choir would urge all of you, when invited to take up the vaccination to help save yours and others lives and bring an early end to this terrible situation.