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.

Last Night Of The Proms 24/06/2017

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Llanelli’s Theatr Ffwrnes was a sea of colour for this annual extravaganza produced by Jeremy Hywel Williams, and conducted by his father, John, who has such an influence on music in the area.  His girls’ and boys’ choirs and the recently-formed Angelicus Celtis were supported by the British Sinfonietta in a wide range of musical numbers, with the performances of young soprano Hannah Seward one of the many highlights. We shared the stage with Llanelli Choral Society, and were conducted in our contributions by D. Huw Rees, accompanied by Hywel Evans (piano), and Huw Tregelles Williams (organ) who also accompanied many of the other performances throughout the evening.

Audience participation was encouraged and assured with flags provided, coloured confetti and countless balloons dropped from the ceiling. As it was Armed Forces Day and close to the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, remembrance also played a part in the event, with readings, performances, and falling poppy petals.

The Hywel “dynasty” certainly know how to put on a show, and we thank them for the opportunity to join them once again in the last Night Of The Proms. We look forward to meeting up again on 10th December for a Massed Voice  Festival of Christmas at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall.

J. Layton Watkins Memorial Concert, 16/06/2017

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Our much-loved General Secretary J. Layton Watkins was also former Chairman and current Secretary of the Welsh Association of Male Choirs (WAMC), and following his untimely death in January the Association decided to hold a concert celebrating and appreciating his contribution to the world of male choirs in Wales and further afield.

With his ever-supportive widow Gwen and son Jason in the large audience, it was an emotional and moving evening. Ffion Edwards and Aaron Pryce-Lewis are two young singers who owe a large part of their success to the Association’s promotion of up and coming singers, a project close to Layton’s heart, so it was appropriate that they should perform in his honour tonight.

With our MD D. Huw Rees, pianist Hywel Evans and organist Huw Tregelles Williams we played our part in tribute to our very good friend and mentor, although it was not easy to sing with a lump in one’s throat.

Huw Tregelles Williams is President of the Choir and WAMC, and he gave a typically eloquent tribute to Layton, whom he knew so well. Jason responded with his own tribute and thanks to all concerned.

The welcome address and closing prayer were given by the Rector of St David’s Church, Canon Stephen Ryan.

WAMC is grateful to all the representatives from its member choirs who attended in support of the event, which raised £1,195 for Macmillan Cancer Care through a retiring collection. The photo shows from L-R: Richard Howells (WAMC Vice Chairman), Hilary Jenkins and Marilyn Evans of the Macmillan Daffodil Group and Ellis Davies (Association Chairman).

34th Annual Concert, 20/5/2017

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A huge amount of work goes into arranging the most important concert of our year, so it is extremely gratifying when we take our places on the balcony in Tabernacle Chapel and see a sea of faces before us. This was one of those nights!
Conducted by our MD D. Huw Rees and accompanied by Hywel Evans (piano) and Huw Tregelles Williams (organ), our programme included several pieces that we had been working on for some time but which we had not performed before in public. Judging by the audience’s appreciative reaction, our hard work had paid off. Our Bass soloist Huw Roberts sang Anfonaf Angel.

It was a poignant and emotional evening for us because we were without two long-standing stalwarts of the Choir, Alan Phillips and Layton Watkins. We were delighted to see a whole row of twelve of Alan’s family and friends, and as a tribute to Layton, who had served for many years as our tireless Secretary, we sang The Lord’s Prayer, and Y Darlun which has special significance for his family. There was much sniffing among the choristers as we managed to finish singing these two!

Our Deputy MD Helen Wyn plays an important part in adding polish to our performances, so we were delighted to be conducted by her in the Mansel Thomas arrangement of Fantasia On Famous Welsh Airs, which we shared with our guest soprano, Gwawr Edwards.

Gwawr has an impressive musical CV which includes many operatic roles, foreign tours, and recordings. We last sang with her in Margam Orangery at an RAF function last year, and we will meet again in October in Carmarthen for a British Legion concert. Her well-chosen programme included I Believe, I’ll Walk With God, and traditional Welsh and Italian songs. The Choir joined her in singing The Holy City, and we joined forces with Gwawr and Huw Roberts in the finalé – O Gymru – which was greeted with tumultuous applause.

Gwawr was accompanied by Annette Bryn Parri, who is one half of Piantel which, as its name implies, is a piano and harp duo (‘telyn’ being Welsh for ‘harp’). The harp half of the duo is Dylan Cernyw. Many of us had not heard Piantel perform live before, but we and the audience greatly enjoyed their choice of music which varied from Gershwin’s Summertime and Pachelbel’s Canon to Agustín Lara’s Granada, with a couple of Scott Joplin’s rags causing much swaying in the audience. They were joined by Gwawr in their version of Calon Lân to the tune of The Rose (made famous by Bette Midler).

Our President, Huw Tregelles Williams OBE, had written a touching tribute to Layton in the programme, and we are due to celebrate his life in a concert in Neath on 16th June. In recognition of his work and the support given by his wife Gwen, we have invested her as a Life Patron of the Choir. During the course of the evening three choristers were presented with their certificates for 25 years continuous membership: Paul Baker, Roy Seaborne, and Huw Williams.

Our compère for the evening was Beverley Humphreys, well known for her singing, writing, and as a BBC presenter. Beverley had done her homework, and gave backgrounds to some of the songs, adding her natural charm to the concert. She also made a good job of trying to connect two Australian visitors in the audience – one upstairs and one on the ground floor!

This was a concert to remember and was generally considered to be one of our best, as the many comments on social media and personal messages have shown.

There is a selection of photos HERE.  A couple of videos have been added to our YouTube page.

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


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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.


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.