Alltwen Chapel, Pontardawe 16/03/2017

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Originally organised to raise funds for local charities, the Chapel had decided to donate the proceeds to the current East Africa Crisis Appeal for emergency drought and food relief  in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan.
The title in the programme “Concert with Local Talent” lived up to its name, with performances from ourselves, Parti Llwchwr ladies choir, Ysgol Gynradd Cymraeg Pontardawe Junior Welsh School, singer Ffion Lowe, and violinist Andrew Millard.
Following our performance of Y Darlun, the children’s choir also sang it, to much applause.
Ffion was accompanied by our accompanist Hywel Evans in Gerschwin’s Summertime, and by our MD D. Huw Rees in two Welsh songs.
In addition to Ave Maria, Andrew chose to play a fiendishly difficult Brahms Hungarian Dance, which went down well with the audience.
The ladies of Parti Llwchwr can always be depended on to produce musical excellence, which they did as they sang a selection of Welsh songs and hymns. They were conducted by Janet Jones, and accompanied by D. Huw Rees.
The evening ended with ourselves and Parti Llwchwr joining to sing Anfonaf Angel, with our Bass soloist Huw Roberts.
We would like to thank the Minister, Gareth Morgan Jones, and all the ladies who put on a fantastic post-concert buffet – crab sandwiches were a first for us!
There are some photos HERE

Schools Choral Competition 15/03/2017

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This was our 4th annual competition for schools in the lower Swansea Valley catchment area, and the first without the man whose idea it was – our late Secretary, Layton Watkins. As a tribute to his tireless work for choral singing in Wales and beyond we had decided to name the winners’ trophy The J. Layton Watkins Trophy.
The four primary schools in the Final were Clase, Gwyrosydd, Danygraig, and Cwm Glas, with each singing a programme of not more than 10 minutes. As in previous years it was a joy to see and hear the reactions of those children who had never been in such an awe-inspiring chapel as Tabernacle before. Rather than being overawed, it seemed to bring out the best in their performances, giving the Adjudicators a hard task in separating them. Eventually they (composer Eric Jones, our MD D. Huw Rees, and our President Huw Tregelles Williams) gave first prize to Cwm Glas, with Gwyrosydd second, and Clase and Danygraig coming in a close joint third. The winners also received £200, and the 2nd and joint 3rd places each received a plaque and £50.
While the Adjudicators were deliberating we entertained the audience with a couple of songs, accompanied by Hywel Evans and conducted by an old friend, Glyn Williams, as our deputy MD Helen Wyn was unavailable.
We thank all the teachers and parents who helped to prepare their children for the competition, and also our sponsors, without whom the event would not be possible – Britannia Robbins, Computeraid, Debenhams, H. Phillips Electrical, Principality Building Society, and Wyevale Garden Centre
Some photos are HERE

Brecon Cathedral 5/3/2017

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This fundraising concert for the 2018 Urdd Eisteddfod was billed as a “Grand Concert”, and it didn’t disappoint! The beautiful accoustic qualities of Brecon Cathedral ensured each performing choir and soloist was heard at their best by the large audience.
We were conducted by our MD D. Huw Rees and accompanied by Hywel Evans who, as usual, got the best out of the Cathedral’s grand piano. Our performance included Gwahoddiad, Y Darlun, World In Union, and Anfonaf Angel with Huw Roberts singing the bass solo.
Brecon and District Male Choir were conducted by Lynnette Thomas and accompanied by D. Huw Rees as they sang a varied choice of music, including Divine Brahma, a version of The Lord’s Prayer, and Y Tangnefeddwyr.
We were treated to beautiful solo performances from two local singers, Delyth Blainey Taylor and Lynne Griffin, both accompanied again by D. Huw Rees, who had a busy night!
Undoubted stars of the evening were the youthful ladies and men of Côr CF1 from Cardiff, under the baton of Eilir Owen Griffiths, who has brought many choirs to prominence and excellence over recent years. Our own choristers were particularly intrigued to hear their moving and controlled performance of Geiriau Olaf Dafydd/The Last Words Of David, which had been the test piece when we competed in the National Eisteddfod in Swansea some years ago. Our Deputy Accompanist Rhiannon Pritchard is both a singing member and the Accompanist of Côr CF1, and we were amused to see her playing the piano without the Choir’s regulation pink shoes, slipping them back on to sing in the unaccompanied pieces.
The evening ended with all performers on stage and the audience singing a rousing performance of Calon Lan, conducted enthusiastically by Eilir Owen Griffiths.
Before returning to sea level over the Beacons we enjoyed a musical “afterglow” in the Castle Hotel.
Another night to remember!
Photos are HERE

Mr. J. LAYTON WATKINS

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It is with heavy hearts that we have to record that his morning, Tuesday 24th January 2017, Layton, our much loved friend and General Secretary passed away.
“Such a lovely man”, “What a gentleman”, “He always had time for queries and requests, making sure your message got through. A true character, nothing pleased him more than standing in front of a massed choir and cracking a joke. Wearing the tartan was another of his dares, that gave him great pleasure”, “Layton was always courteous , attentive, and ever willing to be of assistance irrespective of the issue”,A lovely man who gave me amazing opportunities”  are just a few of the comments already received by us and the Welsh Association of Male Choirs, of which he was a past Chairman and current General Secretary.

Layton was the lynch-pin of male choirs in South Wales and beyond, with contacts all over the world. If anyone wanted to find a name, a date, a phone number, a record of previous concerts, an artist for a concert, etc. Layton was the man to go to. He was a complete gentleman, and carried out his multifarious duties with great efficiency and a smile.
He was responsible for encouraging young performers and giving them a chance to progress their musical careers. As Secretary of the Association he was deeply involved in arranging the Royal Albert Hall massed choirs concerts, and many foreign tours.
Throughout a long and debilitating illness over the last couple of years, and yet another family tragedy, Layton was always ready and eager to help and encourage those of us who needed his help in trying to cover for him during his forced absence from active choir business.
It is said that nobody is indispensible, but whoever said it had never had the absolute honour and pleasure of meeting Mr. J. Layton Watkins.
Our hearts go out to Gwen, Jason, Rana and the rest of his family.

http://www.family-announcements.co.uk/southwales/view/4279564/watkins

Margam Orangery 21/01/2017

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RAF Cadet Warrant Officer Kathryn Flower’s list of achievements filled a whole page in the brochure celebrating her award of Best United Kingdom RAF Air Cadet at Margam Orangery, so we were delighted to have been invited to entertain the many distinguished guests at the award ceremony.
We filled the stage in this beautiful venue, and sang a short selection of songs, with our MD D. Huw Rees and Accompanist Hywel Evans in charge. 
The 215 (City of Swansea) Squadron had also booked soprano Gwawr Edwards, and as she will be our guest artist in our Annual Concert in May, it gave us a chance to sing with her again (the last time was at the Swansea Festival of Remembrance last November).
We congratulate Kathryn for her many achievements, and thank the Squadron for their invitation to help celebrate her latest award.

St. David’s Church, Penllergaer, 16/12/2016

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The lead-up to Christmas is always a busy time for choirs, and before this concert we had entertained residents of Dan y Bryn, Pontardawe, celebrated the switching-on of Morriston’s lights, sung at Morriston Comprehensive School’s Senior Citizens Christmas party, and taken part in Morriston Tabernacle Chapel’s festival of carols with other local choirs. 
Penllergare Valley Woods Trust invited us to help raise funds for restoration of their walled garden by singing in our third Christmas Concert in the village’s St. David’s church.
With the church bursting at the seams, the Choir with soloist mezzo soprano Kate Harwood, accompanist Hywel Evans, and Deputy Musical Director Helen Wyn sang a medley of seasonal and traditional music, with the audience joining in a selection of carols. Our Bass soloist Huw Roberts joined Kate in Anfonaf Angel. 
Kate’s own programme was mainly Welsh airs, with a beautiful rendering of  Away In A Manger. She even managed to perform a duet with herself, helped by a pre-recorded track.
We were delighted to learn that the evening had raised £1,500 towards the fund, and after the concert many of us celebrated with more carols across the road in The Old Inn.
This concert seems to have become a regular village celebration of Christmas, and the 2017 date of 9th December has already been booked.
This was our last full concert of 2016, but the following day we sang carols in Morriston’s Principality Building Society to show our appreciation for their help during the year. (Thank you for the mince pies and sherry!) After this session we moved to the Wyevale Garden Centre for more singing, and were delighted that our bucket collection, helped by a generous donation from Wyevale, raised £250 for Macmillan Cancer Support, in memory of Debra, daughter of our Secretary Layton Watkins and his wife Gwen.

Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. 6/11/2016

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We were privileged again this year to be invited by Community Fund Raiser Squadron Leader Phill Flower to participate in Swansea’s Annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, and with MD D. Huw Rees, pianist Hywel Evans, and Huw Tregelles Williams at the organ we sang Mansions Of  The Lord and World In Union on our own, and then we were joined by young soloist Keely Ashleigh Morgan in The Holy City.

As usual the first part of the Festival was mostly given over to entertainment, and the three young soloists from Loud Applause Rising Stars (LARS) showed what talent we have in this area. Benjamin Anthony, Thomas Bytheway and Keely are all studying either music or performing arts. Other performers were a group from Dancerama Performing Arts School, City of Swansea Concert Band, City of Swansea Pipe Band, and the Cadets of TS Ajax who spelled out their message with semaphore flags. Staff Cadet Warrant Officer Kathryn Flower read out Laurence Binyon’s evocative poem For The Fallen.

Host for the evening was Brian Sullivan, who introduced two films which reminded us of the continuing sacrifices of our armed forces, and the vital service rendered by medics in the battle field.
The second part of the Festival followed the traditional drumhead religious service of remembrance, with communal hymn singing, the two-minutes silence, falling poppy petals, and the Last Post and Reveille played impeccably by Chris Smith of the Salvation Army.

Seion Newydd, Morriston. 21/10/2016

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This concert, to raise funds for the Chapel’s building fund, brought to a close a very busy couple of months for the Choir. We regard the Chapel as our home, and rehearse there twice a week, so we were glad to be able to help raise funds for more remedial work to the fabric of the building.

The undoubted star of the show was soprano Ros Evans, who charmed us and the audience with her anecdotes and humour. It was refreshing to see a soloist who can communicate so effortlessly with her audience. Although her roots are in Swansea, Ros is now an international singer, travelling worldwide to perform.
Her programme ranged from Mozart’s Alleluia to Nella Fantasia (from Enio Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe), with a Karl Jenkins composition, and Cymru Bach. In Ivor Novello’s We’ll Gather Lilacs, Ros demanded (and got) full audience participation. She was accompanied by the Choir’s accompanist, Hywel Evans, who happens to be her cousin.
The Choir was conducted by D. Huw Rees as we sang a dozen songs from our repertoire, including our first public performance of Alexander’s Ragtime Band. Huw Roberts was the soloist in Anfonaf Angel.

The concert ended with Ros Evans joining us and singing the second verse of Gwahoddiad. Compere for the evening was our chorister Robert Harwood.

The Chapel’s Minister, Rev. Eirian Wyn, was unavoidably a couple of hundred miles away officiating at a wedding, so he and his wife Helen (our deputy MD) were unable to be with us.
The Choir would like to thank all those from the Chapel who were involved with organsising the concert, and also for the very convivial interval and post-concert refreshments.

Oxford Town Hall. 8/10/2016

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The voluptously stuccoed hall in Oxford Town Hall was the venue for Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir’s Annual Concert. It is a wonderful room, with a seating gallery, and it was almost filled to the brim.

This was a joint concert, with the combined choirs singing ten pieces together, and each one singing three on their own. The two Musical Directors each conducted one half of the concert, which involved a change of seating arrangement in each half due to the different placing of the four choir voice sections for each choir.
Fortunately, we were able to have a full rehearsal in the afternoon so that choristers could get accustomed to the other choir’s MD’s interpretation of familiar songs. This meant that, by the end of the evening, we had sung two concerts!

The choice of combined music included several Welsh favourites such as Rachie and Llanfair, and we were impressed by the command of the language by the exiles. Oxford’s MD, Helen Swift, is very expressive when she conducts, and she left us in no doubt as to what she wanted from us. Perhaps it does a choir good to be conducted by a different conductor occasionally; it certainly sharpens one’s concentration!

Our MD D. Huw Rees had chosen Unchained Melody, The Lord’s Prayer, and Anfonaf Angel for our “solo” pieces, with bass Huw Roberts singing the solo part in the latter.
Unfortunately, our accompanist Hywel Evans was unable to travel with us due to illness, but we were extremely fortunate and grateful when Helen Swift stepped into the breach at short notice.Oxford’s three pieces were the old favourite, Myfanwy, Fields of Athenry, and a very amusing version of Grandfather’s Clock which involved some audience participation. They were accompanied by Tim Croston (piano) and Andrew Patterson (organ).

We were also entertained by operatic duo Hannah Fraser-Mackenzie and Robert Jenkins. In the first half they sang classical operatic arias, and in the second their programme was based on West End and Broadway show numbers.

The concert supported Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, and we learned that it costs over £40,000 to train and maintain a dog.

We were treated to an excellent ‘afterglow’ in the Town Hall’s bar, where we were able to lubricate our hard-worked voices before heading for home (or to our hotel), having thoroughly enjoyed this collaboration. We plan to invite the Oxford Welsh Choir back to our own area in 2017, when we look forward to brief friendships being rekindled.
Thank you Oxford Welsh Male Choir for our invitation to join in your special day.
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All Saints Church, Mumbles. 20/09/2016

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We had been invited to sing in this concert as part of the Mumbles Festival of Music and The Arts, formerly known as All Saints Alive. Just three days before, we had sung in another All Saints – in Bath.

Our Deputy Musical Director Helen Wyn was in charge as we sang twelve songs from our repertoire, with Bass Huw Roberts singing the solo part in Anfonaf Angel. Hywel Evans accompanied us on the All Saints piano, which he knows so well. Also performing was soprano Adele O’Neil, accompanied by Robert Marshall. We have sung many times with Adele, and her programme of popular operatic arias and I Feel Pretty from West Side Story was well received by the audience.

The church had undergone many improvements to the entrance since our last visit, but funds are still needed to complete the extensive renovations and improvements to this great place of worship and excellent concert venue.