Swansea Festival of Remembrance

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It was fitting that this Festival fell on the exact date of Armistice Day, the 11th day of the 11th month.
Less than two weeks since we sang it at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, we reprised “Mansions Of The Lord”, but this time with accompaniment from Hywel Evans at the piano.
The Brangwyn Hall was packed for this Remembrance Day concert and service, with contributions from the City of Swansea Concert Band, City of Swansea Pipe Band, 215 Squadron RAFAC Corps of Drums, Cadet Warrant Officer Josh Carter (who read the poem “In Flanders Fields”), Dancerama, and soloist Keely Morgan, who will also be singing with us in the Welsh Association of Male Choirs’ massed choirs concert in the Albert Hall in May 2018.
The Corps of Drums should have had a health and safety warning as they enthralled us with their rythmical offerings, and the young people of Dancerama sang beautifully, with outstanding soloists among their number.
Our other contributions were “World In Union”, and “The Holy City”, in which we were joined by Keely Morgan, whose own rendition of “Finlandia” was well received.
The traditional service of remembrance was conducted by Rev. Lionel Hopkins MBE, and presentations were made by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan Byron Lewis KSTJ. The evening was again compered seamlessly by Brian Sullivan.
We thank organiser Phil Flower MBE, British Legion Community Fund Raiser for South Wales, for the opportunity to take part in the city’s tribute to the fallen, which was particularly relevant to the choir, as it followed on so soon after our own emotional visit to Flanders.

Flanders Tour Autumn 2017

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The timing of this 5-day tour coincided with the 3rd Battle of Passchendaele centenary commemorations, and we were fortunate to be able to book an appearance at one of the nightly Menin Gate services in Ypres. These have been performed at 8.00pm every night of the year since 1927 (apart from a short break during WWII), when the town’s volunteer fire brigade decided to honour more than 54,000 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers whose names are engraved on the monument. It was a very moving ceremony as we sang Mansions Of  The Lord and laid a wreath on behalf of the City and County of Swansea.
Our other formal engagement was an afternoon concert in Lille Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Treille) after some time for sight-seeing and chocolate shopping. The soaring interior of the cathedral has wonderful accoustics, which not only enhanced the choir’s performance, but also those of soloist Huw Roberts and accompanist Hywel Evans, who played Vidor’s Toccatta on the organ. The large audience showed their appreciation and demanded an encore.
The social side of the tour was not overlooked, and after a day in Bruges we spent another touring some of the main WWI sites around the Ypres Salient. Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in the world, and apart from almost 12,000 graves the rear walls contain the names of over 34,000 soldiers whose remains are still missing in the Ypres Salient. Most of our party had never visited before, and seeing all those names on this and the Menin Gate panels brought home the terrible loss of life.
As a contrast to the open, almost garden-like British cemeteries, we visited the gloomy German cemetery in Langemark, where the remains of more than 19,000 identified and 24,000 unidentified soldiers are buried. Seeing the thousands of names on bronze tablets around the mass grave for the unidentified and the flat black “headstones” for the others made us realise that it was not only British young men were sent to their deaths, but also innocent young Germans too.
We visited the new Welsh Memorial in Flanders, singing Sunset Poem, and laying another wreath. Later in the evening we had dinner opposite the memorial at Marc Decaestecker’s deSportman Café, presenting him with a commemorative plate and thanking him and his committee for being instrumental in suggesting and raising funds for the Memorial.
It had been a very successful tour for our party of 84 choristers and supporters, and it reminded us of the futility of  “the war to end all wars”.

There are photos on our Photo Gallery page.

Lyric Theatre, Carmarthen 21/10/2017

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Cerith Owens of Loud Applause Productions can be guaranteed to put on spectacular concerts, so we were delighted to be invited to take part in this year’s Annual Royal British Legion Charity Gala Concert in Carmarthen.
The list of performers included soprano Gwawr Edwards, The Three Welsh Tenors (Aled Hall, Rhys Meirion & Aled Wyn Davies), City of Swansea Pipe Band, 215 (City of Swansea) Squadron Corps of Drums, compere Brian Sullivan, and guest accompanist Caradog Williams.
Tickets had been sold out long before the date, so it was rewarding to sing to a capacity audience on such a stormy night, with our MD D. Huw Rees and Accompanist Hywel Evans in charge of our performance. In order to fit in the other performers and the traditional Tribute to the Fallen, we sang just eight songs, including Mansions of The Lord, which we were due to sing at the Menin Gate in Ypres just over a week later. We were joined by Gwawr Edwards in The Holy City, and Gwawr and The Three Welsh Tenors in O Gymru.
Apart from their individual performances, Gwawr and the Tenors combined in Verdi’s Brindisi.
It was a wonderful and moving occasion, unaffected by the weather outside, and the compliments from audience members at the end made it even more enjoyable – and we sold out of CDs! Our new one is due out before Christmas, so keep an eye on our website.

Some photos by Innovation Photography, Cerith Owens and others on our Galleries page.

Brangwyn Hall, Swansea 13/10/2017

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We had been invited to take part in the prestigious fortnight-long Swansea International Festival, joining forces with our friends at Dunvant Male Choir. This concert demonstrated the powerful sound that 140 male voices can produce, and audience members were well prepared as they left the first few front rows empty!
The Musical Directors of each choir (D. Huw Rees for Morriston, and Jonathan Rogers for Dunvant) took turns to conduct our programme of 15 songs. The two accompanists, Hywel Evans and Tony Phipps, did likewise at the piano, with Hywel playing the Hall’s wonderful organ in some of the pieces. Our Bass soloist Huw Roberts sang the beginning of Make Them Hear You, with the choirs joining in the later verses.
Soprano soloist Gwawr Edwards always wows her audiences, and we were thrilled by her clear tones and choice of music, which included musical show songs, Lehar, Puccini, and a couple of Welsh songs too.  Gwawr was accompanied by Hywel Evans, who was celebrating his birthday with his usual musical flair. In thanking him, Gwawr called referred to him as “my orchestra”. She joined with us in singing Morte Christe.
We thank the Festival’s Artistic Director Lyndon Jones for his invitation, and look forward to another appearance at the Brangwyn on Remembrance Day, 11th November. We are also looking forward to hearing Gwawr again in our concert in Carmarthen on 21st October.

There are photos on our Photo Gallery page.

St. Samlet church, Llansamlet 6/10/2017

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We have sung in St. Samlet’s before, and this concert was to help to raise funds for the church. Alterations to the interior have provided a separate area which gives the audience the opportunity to mingle and enjoy refreshments during the interval.
With our MD D. Huw Rees and guest accompanist Huw Tregelles Williams we gave a performance of a variety of songs from our large repertoire. We also supported our Bass soloist Huw Roberts in O Gymru and Anfonaf Angel.
Huw had his own solo spots, with well-loved traditional Welsh songs, accompanied by D. Huw Rees.
A children’s choir always delights and swells audiences, and the choir from Lôn Las Welsh Primary had us captivated with their enthusiasm and commitment. Conducted by Mrs Enfys Rhys and accompanied by Glen Crooks, they sang a medley of songs from Oliver!, and three more in the second half, all in Welsh. We look forward to hearing them again in our Schools Choral Competition next spring.
Our Choir’s Secretary Robert Harwood was compère for the evening.
We would like to thank the church members for their warm welcome, and for the interval refreshments. (more…)

All Saints Church, Oystermouth 12/09/2017

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This church, with its excellent accoustics, is one of our favourites in which to sing. We were delighted therefore to be invited to perform there as part of the Mumbles Festival of Music and the Arts. In spite of a howling gale and lashing rain, a reasonably sized audience thoroughly enjoyed the evening, as we were joined by Parti Llwchwr ladies choir.
The concert had been preceded a couple of days earlier by a wonderful piano and organ recital by our accompanist, Hywel Evans, with Glen Crooks. We choristers all know how skilfully Hywel copes with the requirements of our choir practice nights, but it is a revelation to hear him play as a soloist.
Our programme ranged from traditional and modern Welsh hymns and songs to Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band, and Give Me That Old Time Religion, conducted by our MD D. Huw Rees and accompanied by Hywel on piano and Huw Tregelles Williams at the organ – which can be heard here
 We were joined by Parti Llwchwr in Anfonaf Angel and O Gymru (which led to an encore).
Our soloist was bass Huw Roberts who sang an aria from The Marriage of Figaro, Cân Yr Arad Goch (Song of the Plough), and Bless This House, accompanied by D. Huw Rees.
Parti Llwchwr, conducted by Janet Jones and accompanied by D. Huw Rees, never fail to impress with their beautiful tone, diction, and stage presence, and we were treated to a mixture of Welsh and English songs, ending with the lovely Lausanne.

There are photos on our Gallery Page

Gwaun Cae Gurwen Brass Band 22/07/2017

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We were delighted to be asked to help the band celebrate their 125th Anniversary in Cwmtawe Community School, Pontardawe. With our MD D. Huw Rees and Accompanist Hywel Evans we included nine items from our repertoire, with bass Huw Roberts singing the solo parts in Anfonaf Angel.
After a short rehearsal we combined with the band in Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band, and judging by the audience’s reaction it was a great success. With two MDs each conducting their own performers, it went extremely well.
The band was conducted by Jeff Hutcherson, with several excellent solo performances on many instruments as they played a wide range of band standards and a few surprises, such as Elton John’s Your Song. In a moving tribute to their late member Philip Loveday they played Abide With Me combined with The Last Post. As they played, our own late chorister Percy Morgan was in our thoughts.
Conducted by Dafydd Lewis, the Junior Band showed much talent as they played their four pieces. Dafydd had thrilled us with his own performance of Grandfather’s Clock.
We thank the band for the opportunity to help celebrate such an auspicious occasion, and we hope to be able to join them again one day.

A Summer Festival Of Music 15/07/2017

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In October 2016 we sang in Oxford Town Hall as guests of Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir, and this was the return concert with them as our guests in Tabernacle Chapel, Morriston. At the last minute their coach was unable to bring them but they overcame this by coming by car, for which we are extremely grateful.
Both choirs have different seating arrangements, with the four voices a mirror image of each other, and as we were due to sing together in seven songs as well as individually, this caused quite a logistical problem which was swiftly overcome by our choir marshal.
Conducting and accompanying duties were shared between our respective musical staff; Helen Swift and Alex Howgego for Oxford, and D. Huw Rees, Hywel Evans (organ) and Rhiannon Pritchard (piano) for Morriston RFC. With full attention being paid by choristers to the conductors’ unfamiliar interpretations and following a short afternoon rehearsal, this arrangement worked very well and was greatly appreciated by our audience.
The wonderfully melodic Parti Llwchwr ladies choir are usually led by Janet V Jones but sadly, due to a family bereavement that morning, she was unable to be with them. However, her place was taken by the ebullient Marie Richards, whose comments and introductions helped to lighten what could have been a sad occasion for her choristers. They sang six songs from their repertoire, accompanied by D. Huw Rees, and we joined them in Anfonaf Angel and O Gymru (which can be viewed by clicking on the link).
One of the guest singers in our 2015 Annual Concert was the young tenor Rhydian Jenkins from Maesteg, and we were delighted that he was able to join us again. With his accompanist Kim Lloyd Jones he sang a programme of mostly Welsh folk songs, plus Schubert’s Standchen and Bring Him Home (from Les Miserables). He received a great reception, and Oxford Welsh MVC were so impressed that they will be considering Rhydian for future bookings in Oxfordshire.
The two male choirs joined together in the finalé, which included World In Union (again, click on the link).
Following this most enjoyable concert we entertained our guest choirs at Morriston Rugby Club, ending the evening with a buffet, chat and songs before most of the Oxford contingent had to head back up the M4 (with their designated drivers at the wheel, of course!).
During the course of the buffet our Chairman Huw Roberts presented two photographs to his opposite number from Oxford, Phil Lewis. They had been donated by our bass singer Richard Davies whose great uncle Tom Jones had been a founder member of  Oxford Welsh, and showed “Uncle” Tom with his choir.
It was a wonderful evening of song, and we thank our friends from Oxford for making the considerable last-minute change to their travel arrangements to be with us.

There are some photos on our Photo Gallery page.

Voices Of The Valley 30/6/2017

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All three choirs singing together.


Thirty members of Valley View High School choir in the Lackawanna Valley, Pennsylvania had been hand-picked for a two-week tour of south Wales. Their area has had strong links with ours since 90 mining families emigrated there from the Swansea Valley in 1830 to share their expertise in extracting anthracite, the fuel that enabled USA industry to flourish.
This concert, held in Morriston Comprehensive school’s overflowing theatre, was one of several they gave during their stay. Under the direction of their Choral Director Gina Pascolini and accompanied by Marty Ort and student Eric Lee they gave a highly polished performance, which included Freddy Mercury’s Bohemian Rhapsody (with torches!), and a lovely arrangement of Calon Lan in Welsh. The rhythms of Sililiza had many toes in the audience tapping, and Kasidy Leggin overcame a problematic sound system to give a creditable performance of Death Of A Bachelor.
With their conductor Ruth Evans and accompanist Craig Rees the youngsters of Cwmrhydyceirw Primary School choir sang a confident and most enjoyable programme, which included Calon Lan sung to the tune of The Rose, Doh Ray Me, and Open My Eyes Lord. So much did we enjoy hearing them that we hope to invite them to sing with us again before too long.
Three students from the Comprehensive school added to the evening’s entertainment: guitarist Sam Ellis played Surfing With The Aliens with a multi-track backing, Ellie Jones sang Bring Him Home and Forever Young, deftly overcoming a momentary mental block, and Kyle Owens sang Bowie’s Life On Mars.
Conducted by D. Huw Rees and accompanied by Hywel Evans, our own programme was quite short to allow the young people to enjoy entertaining in public, and it ended with the USA youth choir joining us in singing Rachie, again in Welsh, and without copies! They also joined in the Welsh national anthem to bring an enjoyable concert to a close.

There are several photos on our Photo Gallery page.

PERCY MORGAN

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Sadly, we have to report the death of another popular chorister.
Percy was in his 98th year, and until three or four months ago he was a regular and loyal member of the choir, seldom missing a practice night, and always taking his place in the front row of the baritones in concerts. His lifetime of singing started in church in Clydach when he was a young boy.
He was a real gentleman and always very popular with the ladies, who appreciated his twinkling smile and natural charm. We still have happy memories of him dancing with a group of young ladies at a disco after a concert in Bristol.
He was an example to us all in the way that he was always immaculately dressed, and was very seldom seen without a tie, even on a hot summer practice night!
Percy saw service in WWII with the Army in Italy and North Africa, and always wore his medals with pride and a straight back in commemoration events.
Percy will be greatly missed by his fellow choristers, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to Julie and her family, of whom he was very proud.

 St David’s Day celebrations at Tesco Llansamlet.