Gwalia Singers

(Swansea)
Gwalia logo
Cantorion Gwalia

(Abertawe)


1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

 

Previous decade: the 1990s

 

 

2000

 

The choir took part yet again in the Pontrhydfendigaed Eisteddfod and won first prize winning the Gwalia Cup that the choir presented to the Eisteddfod in 1983!

 

The choir also took part in the National Eisteddfod at Llanelli but on this occasion was unsuccessful.

 

South Wales Evening Post

 

On The Grapevine (South Wales Evening Post) May 17, 2000

 

The Teutonia choir from Mannheim made a reciprocal visit to Swansea and a joint concert was held in St Mary’s Church in June, which doubled as the Annual Concert. As well as the Teutonia Choir from Mannheim it featured Ryan Matthews on trumpet and Delyth Jenkins on Harp and was compered by Dudley Owen.

 

 

A visit was made to the Oxfordshire village of Hook Norton, famous for its “Real Ale” Brewery and after a successful concert to raise money for the church, a visit to the brewery with natural sampling took place.

 

A special Millennium Concert was held at the St David’s Centre in Cardiff, where apart from several other artists, the choir was joined by the Good News Choir – a youth choir from Ceredigion.

 

Terry Osborn was appointed Chairman.

 

 

2001

 

The outbreak of foot & mouth disease nationally affected the choir’s activities and several concerts had to be cancelled including the Shobdon Flower Festival.

 

The Gwalia Singers were invited to perform at the christening of Alvin Stardust's 2nd daughter, Millie Margaret May. The service was held at a beautiful Tudor mansion in Chiddingfold, Surrey.

 

Many other celebrities attended, such as members of Boney M, DJ Mike Reid and the front man for Procul Harum, Gary Brooker. Millie's Godfather is Sir Cliff Richard who has since become one of the choir's patrons. Some photographs from the event can be viewed at the gallery.

 

 

The choir lost no time in getting Sir Cliff to sing with them some of his numbers which were in the Gwalia repertoire.

 

Several local concerts were given in Tenby, Llansamlet, Killay, Uplands and Sketty Methodist Church. In July the choir was asked to sing for the first time in the Prestigious Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

 

The Annual Concert took place at All Saint’s Church, Oystermouth, and featured the Good News Choir who had previously sung at the St David’s Hall Millennium Concert.

 

 

2002

 

The choir had a busy year performing 25 concerts in total including three “choir” weddings.

 

The choir again visited Hook Norton in Oxfordshire to celebrate St David’s Day. The brewery owner had made a promise to the choir that if we came to celebrate St David’s Day in the village, he would fly the Welsh flag from the brewery and, sure enough, there it was on arrival - flying high above Oxfordshire! Needless to say there was a more extensive tour of the brewery with natural sampling on completion. The choir gave an outstanding concert in the church in aid of church funds.

 

The choir participated in the Llanelli Proms and starred alongside the Llanelli Choir and the RAF band.

 

Another visit was made to Mannheim to celebrate 140 years of the Teutonia choir’s formation. There were concerts and competitions for Male Voice Choirs from all over Germany hosted by the Teutonia Choir and the Gwalia Singers sang several times, but the highlight was appearing alongside the Occupational Band of the US Army! The visit included a trip to Strasbourg, the winelands of the Pfalz region and dinner at the Big Barrel.

 

The Annual Concert took place again at All Saint’s Church, Oystermouth, and featured Ryan Matthews on trumpet, Claire Hammacott (soprano) and was compered by Colin Hodges.

 

Recruitment featured as a strong issue for the choir as numbers had dropped to 40 and plans were made to improve the recruiting process.

 

The Annual Dinner was held at the Dragon Hotel.

 

 

2003

 

 

The choir sang at two open-air concerts in the Quadrant Shopping Centre in Swansea and raised in excess of £1,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance.

 

The choir participated in the Cardigan Eisteddfod for the first time in many years but was unsuccessful in winning first place.

Several concerts were given for Christian Aid in Mumbles Baptist Church, Clyne Church and at Margam Orangery.

 

The Annual Concert was held in St Mary’s Church and featured the Talycoppa School Choir and two talented young musicians – Lawrence Mann on recorder and Arabella Corkhill on 'cello. Brian Sullivan compered the concert.

 

Mal Pope – a local singer and songwriter – was appointed President after the untimely death of the previous President, Councillor Tyssul Lewis, who had done so much for the choir over many years.

 

 

The Annual Dinner Dance was held at the Gower Golf Club.

 

 

2004

 

A visit was made to Bangor in Northern Ireland to take part in a singing festival for choirs from all over the UK and Ireland. The hosts were the Bangor Ladies Choir and although the choir failed to win any competitions, they made good friends with the choir. A trip was made around Belfast and surrounding countryside, including the Giant’s Causeway.

 

With the foot and mouth epidemic clearly history, the choir took part in the Flower Festival at Shobdon Church but it seemed that heavy rain was to dampen an excellent event.

 

Concerts were held in St. Gabriel’s Church, Tenby, and at the Langland Bay Golf Club to celebrate its centenary – finishing with a fantastic fireworks display over the bay.

 

The Annual Concert took place again at All Saint’s Church, Oystermouth, followed by a buffet at Castellamare. The concert was compered again by Colin Hodges and featured the Sketty Primary School Choir and tenor Andrew Matthews.

 

The choir took part in a special concert at Talycoppa School to celebrate their 25th Anniversary.

 

 

2005

 

The choir performed at All Souls Annual Summer Concert. The following review (which can also be found at All Souls website, www.allsoulstycoch.org.uk)  was written by Graham Williams, with photos by Alayne Jenkins:

 

 

"All Souls never fails to extend the warmest of welcomes to regulars and newcomers alike, and given the fact that this year's Summer Concert was hosted by none other than everyone's friend and Vicar, Phillip Gwynn, it was clear that we were in for a particularly warm and amusing reception.

 

This year's guests, the Gwalia Singers - accompanied by pianist Rhian Liles - performed a fabulously varied selection, ranging from traditional Welsh hymns such as Gwahoddiad and Tydi a Roddaist right through to a highly effective arrangement of the Robbie Williams hit Angels - a song which I have always loathed, so much so in fact that I almost caught myself groaning when I spotted it listed in the programme; so it says much for the Gwalias that this turned out to be one of their most powerful pieces during the evening.

 

In a week which has seen so much publicity regarding Live 8 and poverty throughout Africa, the choice of Enoch Sontonga's African Prayer was an especially wise one and packed a real emotional punch - but there were also some splendidly jolly bits of nonsense such as The Drummer and the Cook and a swinging arrangement of Sospan Fach.

 

Musical director Simon Oram proved to be a genuinely pleasant, likeable and informative character and one with a direct link to Sketty Primary School Choir, for it was he who composed their well-loved showstopper -When Will I See You Again - a song of which I for one never tire, performed here with real insight and compassion by these talented youngsters along with Sing, Sing a Song and the heart-rending favourite, We Are The Young.

 

As regulars of All Souls will be aware, both We Are The Young and When Will I See You Again were recorded by the choir at Taliesin Arts Centre for a CD which has to date raised £1,500 for the Machakos Diocese of Kenya.

 

The children also performed a delightful arrangement of O-Bla-Di O-Bla-Da, the Lennon/McCartney number which had (in response to the query from the choir's musical director Lynda Richards) originally been recorded by Marmalade... I think!

 

All in all, this - the second All Souls Summer Concert and now destined to become an annual event - proved to be a real triumph and ended on a high note as Anna Jenkins and Naomi Eagle (the oldest and youngest members of Sketty Primary School Choir) presented flowers to Lynda Richards and Rhian Liles, while Simon Oram received a presentation from Church Warden Celia Hall. 

 

Phillip Gwynn also acknowledged the hard work of the Fund Raising Committee, who had done so much behind the scenes putting this concert together.

 

Yet another successful event not simply for All Souls itself, but for the wider community of Tycoch - a community which seems to be pulling together in a way that could not have been imagined just a few short years ago."

 

 

Concerts were also performed at Penmaen House, St Benedict’s Church and St Peter’s Church. The choir sang alongside the ladies group Vivace, at the Bishopston Church Floral Festival where funds were donated to Tsunami appeal.

The Annual Concert was held in All Saint’s Church, Oystermouth and featured the Hywel Girl’s Choir from Llanelli and local tenor – Jonathan Lycett and Dudley Owen compered it.

 

Clive Walters was appointed Chairman.

 

 

2006

 

 

The Gwalia Singers celebrate another anniversary! For this, the 40th Anniversary, two major concerts were planned. The first was held at the Grand Theatre in Swansea on Friday 5th May. Guest artistes were Mal Pope (whose 14 year old daughter performed for the first time in public), Steve Balsamo (who brought along his band, the Storys) and the Vivace Singers. Photographs of the day can be viewed at the gallery.

 

A few years previously, Musical Director Simon Oram took a teaching job in Abergavenny. The journey to Swansea each week finally took its toll, and in November the baton was passed on to Nick Rogers, previously the choir's assistant MD.

 

 

 

2007

 

 

The choir returned to Mannheim, Germany, to help celebrate both the city's 400th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of being twinned with Swansea. Photographs of the visit can be viewed at the gallery.

 

 

Translation of a report in a Mannheim newspaper:

A display of powerful singing seals the friendship between Mannheim and Swansea in Feudenheim’s Kulturhalle.

The Twinning of Two Towns is Celebrated with a Display of Powerful Singing.

There has been musical harmony between Mannheim and Swansea for fifty years.

Two wonderful choirs – the Gwalia Singers from Mannheim’s twin town of Swansea and the Maennergesangverein Teutonia – impressed their audience in a memorable performance in the Kulturhalle in Feudenheim. The public hummed or sang along enthusiastically to a number of the better known songs.

“I have great respect for the recital which these two choirs have given” said the Mayor of Culture, Dr. Peter Kurz.

The partnership and personal friendships between the singers from Wales and their Mannheim hosts were clear to see. 

“It is just so important to have such good friends,” said Heinz Schmetzer, chairperson of the twinning association, which is why he has involved himself so ardently in the town partnership between Welsh Swansea and the Palatine city of Mannheim for almost fifty years. His motto is:

“Harmony and friendship are always positive whatever the circumstances.” Herr Schmetzer spent a few years in Britain as a Prisoner of War. The Chairperson of the Teutonia Choir, Wilhelm Heckmann, continued,

“The cooperation between our two choirs which has been running now for twelve years helps us understand each other better as people.”

It was evident from the performance of the Gwalia Singers on stage that music in a united Europe really does surpass boundaries. 

The Gwalia Singers sang a wide variety of songs including Bridge over Troubled Waters, The Gospel Train, Light a Candle, I’m gonna Walk and Angels. Climax of the performance was the song ‘The Rose’ which the twenty-nine singers under their conductor, Nick Rogers, sang at the request of their hosts. Always in the background yet leading the choristers was the accompanist Rhian Lyles while Amanda Price charmingly compered.  With an Abba medley as a finale the Gwalia Singers sang themselves into the hearts of their audience who were stirred to a standing ovation. An encore followed – the public would not have gone home without one!

Clive Walters, Chairperson of the Gwalia Singers, thanked Peter Kurz, Heinz Schmetzer and Wilhelm Heckmann for their hospitality by presenting gifts. The evening was opened with songs by Maennergesangverein Teutonia who sang “In times of happiness and sorrow we are ready to sing, Teutonia blossoms summer, winter and spring”. Under the musical conductor, Thomas Wind, who like the tenor Herbert Knebel made excellent solo contributions, Teutonia provided a potpourri of songs. Steven Wilson, one of the Gwalia Singers, said that Swansea was not situated in England but in Wales and that the name ‘Gwalia’ was the original name for Wales. Bernhard Kaiser and his band rounded off this evening which had been planned to celebrate harmony and friendship. This event was made possible by the support of many sponsors and involvement by official sources.

 

To celebrate St. David's Day, the choir performed at Heatherslade Nursing Home and then moved on to a more informal setting at the Beaufort Arms in Norton.

 

A special concert was held at Swansea's new Waterfront Community Church in April. Guests were the Bangor Ladies Choir from Northern Ireland (pictured below). The choirs met at the Bangor International Choral Festival a few years ago.

 

 

The choir headed off to Cornwall from 4-7 May to participate in the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival. We spent a leisurely Saturday exploring St Ives and trying to avoid the seagulls. Not entirely successfully in our MD's case! We performed at the Liskeard Methodist Church in the evening. Sunday saw a visit to the Eden Project before one more concert in St. Austell. On the programme with us on both occasions was the impressive Czech Boys' Choir (Boni Pueri). An enjoyable weekend was had by all! Pictures from the trip can be viewed at the gallery.

 

From the South Wales Evening Post, dated 21 May 2007:

A Swansea choir is on a recruitment drive to build on its latest success. The Gwalia Singers was one of 60 choirs to feature in the Cornwall International Male Voice Choir Festival. It took its place alongside others from Finland, France and Sweden.

The
Swansea choir received standing ovations for its two concerts.

Officials are now on the lookout for new recruits, with rehearsals at Swansea Yacht & Sub-Aqua Club every Tuesday at
7.15pm.

 

A performance was given on 13 June at the impressive Celtic Manor Resort for a conference held by Medtronic, a company that provides medical technology for people with chronic disease. The audience all enjoyed a fairly brief concert and the choir found time to relax and enjoy a buffet plus a few drinks afterwards.

 

The choir performed at a social evening on 23 June held at the church hall in Bishopston. Reverend Chris Lee had returned from America and brought a number of his parishioners with him to Wales for a short stay. The choir was well received by the visitors and a very enjoyable evening was had by all.

 

We made our annual pilgrimage to the Giltar Hotel in Tenby on 29 June to entertain the guests staying on holiday in the area. A number of the old favourites were sung and the choir performed ‘You Raise Me Up’ for the first time. It was great to see Charles Clewett, our secretary’s brother, join us for the evening.

 

The choir went west on 14 August to Pontarddulais to sing for a full house at the Mechanics Institute on St. Teilo Street. It was a fund raising evening for the Arthritis Research Campaign and the evening was opened by Jane Jones, one of the news presenters from BBC Wales. We had an excellent evening and were well received by the audience. On the way home one of our cars had a slight mishap. In rather inclement weather, Pontarddulais’ one way system, and seemingly lack of sign posts, caused problems which somehow found the driver going through Garnswllt and then on to Ammanford. It was some twenty five minutes later that the car was travelling on the M4 passing Pontarddulais!

The concert was a milestone in the history of the Gwalia Singers. In November 2006 we realised that we had to do some serious recruiting, as our numbers had decreased to just 34 singers. Following a tremendous effort by the members and our publicity officer, Tom Bartley, we have now increased to 44 singers, with another 2 who have yet to become full members. This showed on Tuesday night as we had 39 singers on stage, and this is believed to be the largest choir that the Gwalia Singers have ever put out in its 40 year history.

 

The choir's previous conductor, Simon Oram, picked up the baton once more to lead the choir at a wedding reception in Usk on 2 October. The bride was, in fact, Simon's mother. The wedding guests enjoyed the concert and afterwards the choir continued singing in the less formal environment of the hotel bar.

 

Our annual concert took place on 20th October and, once again, it was hugely successful. The Waterfront Community Church provided an excellent venue and despite the Rugby World Cup Final being played at the same time, we had a full house.

Appearing with us were The Ariosa Singers. They are a young choir who have been together for just over two years and are made up of singers aged between 9 and 27, many of whom hope to follow careers in music. Their musical director is Mrs Penny Ryan and on this occasion they were accompanied by her husband, Les Ryan.

 

Both choirs sang a very varied programme and included in our programme were standards such as Morte Christe and Calon Lan. We also sang a new arrangement of You Raise Me Up by Alan Simmons, which featured Len Fuge and Lawrence Sutton singing the solo part. The first half ended with an arrangement by our musical team of the great Tom Jones classic Delilah, which was very well received.

 

The Ariosa Singers included two specially commissioned works, Ave Maria by Lisa Mears and Irish Blessing by Richard John. Other highlights of their programme were an arrangement by Roger Emerson of Fields of Gold by Sting, and a very powerful setting of the words Lux Aerterna to Elgar’s Nimrod, which showed the expertise of the young singers, as it was arranged for double choir.

 

We finished our programme with the fine arrangement of a medley of songs by Frank Sinatra, which includes Fly Me To The Moon, Strangers In The Night, My Way and ends with New York, New York. The two choirs then joined on stage to sing Anthem from Chess, arranged by Les Ryan, which led to rapturous applause, bringing many of the audience to their feet.

We were once again accompanied by the excellent Rhian Liles and our musical director Nick Rogers was very pleased with the performance of the choir and the evening as a whole. He was also especially pleased to see 40 singers on stage, the biggest ever choir at an annual concert.

 

 

The Gwalia Singers were chosen to represent Wales during a St David's Day celebration in Disneyland, Paris in 2008.

 

From the South Wales Evening Post, September 29, 2007

 

The article above reads:

It will be Paris in the springtime for a Swansea choir after it was chosen to head the St David's Day celebrations at Euro Disney.

  The Gwalia Singers beat off the challenge of scores of Welsh male voice choirs for the honour.
  "I can hardly believe we have been chosen," said secretary Alan Clewett.
  "It's great to have a choir from the West."
  The 46-strong choir - founded in 1966 - took its chance with a host of others from across
Wales.
  "Euro Disney had a St David's Day celebration last year, but what was missing was a male voice choir," said Mr Clewett.
  "They contacted the National Association of Choirs, who contacted all-Welsh male voice choirs."
  The city choir made its pitch and was delighted to come out on top.
  "Disneyland Paris is about entertainment and they wanted a choir which could not only sing traditional Welsh songs but could also entertain," said Mr Clewett.
  "We also do comical numbers and have a wide variety. They asked for our last CD, and also said we had a good website."
  The choir are awaiting full details of the trip, but have been asked to do five 30-minute slots on March 1 and 2.
  The choir are now on the lookout for sponsorship for items like special sweatshirts. Members are also putting the finishing touches to their programme for the annual Gwalia Singers concert at the
Waterfront Community Church in Swansea's SA1 on Saturday, October 20, at 7.15pm.

 

 

January 2008

 

With Christmas fast becoming a fading memory, the choir kicked off 2008 with a concert in Pontardawe for local senior citizens. Preparations began for our visit to Disneyland, Paris, for their St. David's Welsh Festival, taking place from 29th February to 2nd March.

 

 

February 2008

 

In preparation for our trip to Disneyworld, new polo shirts were presented to the choir by Gwalia Housing.

 

South Wales Evening Post article from 28 February 2008

 

The choir began learning (or relearning) many of the old favourite Welsh songs for the occasion. Meanwhile, both Jeff Mogford and Wally Carey passed their auditions to become full members which meant that there were now 45 singers in the choir. A further 4 probationary members were also attending rehearsals.

 

 

March 2008

 

Grand Slam Winners!

Yes, for those who missed the Six Nation Championship this year, the Welsh rugby team won the Grand Slam on 16th March. Further information was available at the South Wales Evening Post website along with a slideshow set to music from the Gwalia Singers.

 

St David's Festival - Disney

The choir arrived in Paris as planned on Friday 29th February. After 2 rehearsals and a good night's sleep, we were ready to perform on stage at Disneyland, Paris. Unfortunately the weather was not good enough for us to perform on the outdoor stage as planned so an alternative indoor venue was prepared. After 4 concerts on Saturday 1st March and another 4 on Sunday 2nd March, the choir enjoyed a marvellous buffet at a nearby hotel, followed by singing in the bar (with an Italian waiter leading and conducting the Italian anthem with much enthusiasm). We returned home on Monday, but not before being treated to guest passes to the resort to enjoy the magic of Disney.

 

A fuller report of the visit, along with a video clip taken during a performance, is available here. A selection of photographs from the trip can be viewed at the gallery.

 

The choir and Disney staff pictured at the end of the final concert

 

 

April 2008

 

The choir held its annual dinner on 19th April, a little later than usual due to the choir’s visit to Disneyland and the early Easter this year. The evening was organised by Terry Osbourne and held at the Gower Golf Club. Over 90 choristers and guests attended and the music for after dinner dancing was provided by Clive Reynolds. Our Chairman, Paul Smith, formally thanked outgoing Chairman Clive Walters for holding the post for the past four years. Paul then presented Clive with a watch in appreciation of his hard work.

 

A highlight of the dinner each year is the presentation of ‘The Skull’. As with every organisation, small mishaps, mistakes and monumental ‘cock-ups’ occur during the year and this is given to the one chorister who we believe has made the biggest of them all. There were two nominations and the winner was John Davies for missing the last bus from our hotel in Disneyland on the Monday morning. We had been given free tickets to the Park, and John’s absence was only realised when we had 2 tickets left after everyone had got off the bus in the Park. Paul Smith was also with him, but John had the blame, as he had a dodgy stomach and had to return to his room before catching the bus. Apparently, this had nothing to do with the amount of beer consumed the night before!! Of course, getting into Disneyland without a ticket is another matter…

 

 

May 2008

 

We had a very busy May. Firstly there was the ‘photo shoot’ for the National Lottery campaign (see below) and that was followed by 2 concerts. On May 17th we joined with The Regimental Band of the Royal Welsh, Hywel Girl’s Choir and Hywel Boy’s Singers, the Llanelli Choral Society and Adele O’Neill, at the Selwyn Samuel Centre, Llanelli. This was the ‘Llanelli Proms’ which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. It was a very enjoyable evening and included many joint items with choir, band and audience including Calon Lan, Cwm Rhondda, Jerusalem, and a rousing arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

 

The following Saturday we took part in the Navy Days celebration in Mumbles and gave a concert at All Saints, Oystermouth. On this occasion we were joined by Celine Forrest, soprano, and Zoe Rasmussen, harp. The evening was organised by Penny Ryan and we were fortunate to have Les Ryan accompany us on the organ for 3 pieces. We sang Geoffrey Russell Smith’s arrangement of ‘Li’l Liza Jane’ for the first time and during the concert we presented a tie to Ray Davies for 30 years' service to the choir.

 

Ray receiving his tie

 

We were pleased to announce that Walter Jones become a full chorister and, during this month, we had another 3 probationary members singing at rehearsal. Our numbers were very healthy but we were still pleased to welcome anyone interested in joining, especially in the 1st tenor or 2nd bass part.

 

This month also saw us busy preparing for our Annual Concert to be held at All Saints, Oystermouth, on Saturday 5th July and which would feature Joe Morgan, baritone, and Bronwen Beckett-Evans, soprano.

 

 

Singing in the Key of Sea

 

The choir paid a trip to the Millennium Coastal Park and rolled up their trousers to take part in the National Lottery's "Love UK" event - a month-long celebration of the £25 million raised each week for good causes by players of the lottery.

 

 

Further photographs from the day's shoot can be seen at the gallery.

 

A ‘quiz night’ was held at the Commercial, Upper Killay, on Thursday 1st May. The evening was organised by Gareth John, who runs the pub and also sings baritone in the choir.

 

 

July 2008

 

Annual Concert 2008

 

Our annual concert was held at All Saints Church, Oystermouth on 5th July and was, again, a very successful event. The church was almost full and the audience was well entertained by the choir and artistes.

 

The guest soloists were two young local singers - Joe Morgan, baritone, and Bronwen Beckett-Evans, soprano. Joe started with a selection of arias from various operas, including ‘Largo al Factotum’ from ‘The Barber of Seville’ and his final selection contained ‘Myfanwy’, finishing with ‘Stars’ from ‘Les Miserables’. Bronwen also sung from musicals and opera and included ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera and ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from ‘Sound of Music’.

 

We started the concert with ‘A Llawenydd Cenwch’ by Martin Shaw and followed this with the wonderful ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’ by Fauré, which was brought back into the repertoire for this concert. The second half included ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ from The Lion King, which we performed in Disneyland earlier in the year, and once again the concert finished with a medley of Sinatra songs arranged by Alan Simmons.

 

A very busy person at the concert was our accompanist Rhian Liles, who not only played for the choir, but also for both soloists, and a huge ‘thank you’ must go to her for this. Another feature was that Stephen Wilson accompanied us on the organ for the final verse of a number of the pieces including ‘Anthem’ from Chess and the two Welsh hymns Gwahoddiad and Cwm Rhondda. We are so fortunate to have such talented people in our ranks.

 

The evening was beautifully compered by Colin Hodges and the evening ended with the choir chairman Paul Smith making presentations to the soloists and our musical team, and thanking them for their wonderful performances during the evening.

 

Vernon Simons receiving his tie for 40 years' service

 

 

August 2008

 

We sang at two weddings this month. Firstly, we sang at the National Waterfront Museum for the wedding of Faye Lawlor. This was a new venue for us in Swansea and it was a great place to sing. The second took us to deepest Devon, to the small village of Upottery, between Illminster and Exeter, for the wedding of Caroline Wells and Toby Thomas. We started out by coach from the Diamond Coaches depot (once all the drivers had found their way there!), and made our way down the M5. We sang before the wedding ceremony only to be informed that there would be a delay in the wedding taking place, as the vicar had been caught up in traffic, after an accident on the A3! However, everything went well in the end and we sang ‘The Rose’ at the signing of the register. A buffet had been organised by our Chairman at the Sidmouth Arms following the wedding, where a few more songs were sung and the local ale tasted.

 

We were also pleased to announce that Ed Parton and Dave Wisby had become the latest members to pass their auditions. This brought our numbers up to 48.

 

Congratulations to Only Men Aloud for winning the BBC choir competition ‘Last Choir Standing’. They make a truly brilliant sound. Just a bit of trivia - we actually stood in for them at a concert a few years ago, when they had to pull out at short notice.

 

 

September 2008

 

We had a very successful trip to Birr, a small Georgian town in County Offaly, in the Irish Midlands. Two buses left Swansea on Friday 26th and arrived late in the evening, with just enough time to check into our accommodation and visit a local hostelry.

Saturday saw an early start with a visit to the very impressive Birr Castle. Although we were unable to enter the castle itself (it is the current home of the seventh Earl of Rosse), the grounds are extensive and also feature the "Great Telescope". This was followed by a rehearsal in St Brendan’s, Church of Ireland, and also at Birr Town Hall, where we performed our concert later. We had a great reception from a packed hall which culminated in an encore following our last piece, a medley of Sinatra songs. A standing ovation followed the singing of the Welsh national anthem and The Soldier’s Song. Although we sang this in English it was great to hear the Irish words sung by the audience! After the concert, a barbecue had been arranged for us at Kelly’s bar and further singing took place into the early hours of Sunday morning. There appeared to be some confusion here as two of our members turned up in fancy dress. Elvis didn’t leave the building that night. Well, not until very late…

 

On Sunday we sang at the church for their harvest celebration. Again, we were well received by the congregation who burst into applause, following a rousing performance of Cwm Rhondda. After the service we were treated to a reception at the town hall and a number of presentations were made. We must thank the Birr Stage Guild for their part played in the organisation of the weekend and also the Birr Lions Club, who covered our costs of entry into the castle and the monastery at Clonmacnoise, which we visited later in the day. We also gave a short performance there, in a restored part of the monastery where the acoustics were brilliant. In the evening we attended a ‘grand’ buffet at The County Arms, which was, indeed, ‘grand’!

 

The weekend ended with a trip to Dublin on Monday and our return to Swansea in the early hours of Tuesday morning. A big thank you must go to Paul Smith, whose idea it was to visit Birr, and to Alan Clewett who organised the weekend so efficiently. Also to the performances of our musical team Nick, Rhian, and Steve, who added the organ accompaniment for a number of items at both venues. Finally, thanks to Tony and Margaret Hogan, our contacts in Birr, who organised the various trips, entertainment, and concert venues throughout the weekend.

 

Outside Birr Town Hall

 

More photos from this trip can be viewed at the gallery.

 

 

October 2008

 

We were pleased to be able to announce that we had been asked back to perform in Disneyland, Paris, for their Welsh Festival over the weekend of March 6th to 8th 2009. This was great news and recognition of our professionalism, and the quality of performance, given at last year’s event. This time we hoped that the weather would prevail and that we would be able to sing outdoors.

 

On Thursday 23rd we sang at the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff. We had been invited by the DVLA to perform to over 100 delegates, who represented other Licensing Agencies from all parts of the world and were visiting Cardiff to share ideas. They were being shown around the Assembly building, and we added the ‘Welsh’ flavour to the evening. We had an excellent reception and one of the delegates even joined our bass section when we finished our programme with ‘We’ll Keep A Welcome’! On the way back we stopped at the Red Lion, Bonvilston, where further singing took place washed down by a few beers.

 

 

December 2008

 

Following a quiet November we had a very busy Christmas. Our first concert was held at The Scout Hall, Brynmill, which is an annual event organised by our Ladies committee, where we also raise funds for a local charity. This year, money was donated to Stepping Stones, a children’s charity based in Killay. We followed this with another ‘annual’ event when we sang at the Vivian Hall, Blackpill, raising funds for the hall itself. Both concerts were played to full houses and we included a number of new Christmas items including a version of The First Nowell, which has been set to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The accompaniment is written as a piano duet, which allowed Steve Wilson to join Rhian on the piano. 

 

We were also fortunate to be asked to sing at Craig-Y-Nos Castle for the wedding of Phil Gittoes’ daughter. Phil is a past member, and chairman, of the choir and we have now sang at the wedding of each of his children. It was great to be able to sing in the famous ‘Opera House’ and after in the sun lounge. A number of the bridegroom’s family joined us for a rendering of Blaydon Races, as they had travelled down from the north east for the wedding. Phil also joined us for Cwm Rhondda

 

The final event of the Christmas season saw us participating in the annual Swansea RFC carol service, which this year took place in the St Helens Lounge. This was again well attended by the current players, committee and supporters, and Garin Jenkins, former Swansea and Wales hooker, gave a short, but passionate, address. The funds raised from this event were given to Swansea Gladiators Rugby Club which is a team made up of children with various disabilities.

 

 

February 2009

The choir teamed up with Marie Curie Cancer Care to promote the charity’s annual Great Daffodil Appeal. Each year the charity sells daffodil pins in exchange for donations. We were keen to represent Wales at Disneyland, Paris by wearing the Welsh emblem of the Daffodil whilst performing. Having heard about the Marie Curie Cancer Care appeal we contacted the local fundraising office to make a donation of £50.00 for 50 daffodils.

 

Marie Curie Cancer Care provides high-quality nursing care for people diagnosed with terminal cancer and other illnesses, in their own homes. Community Fundraiser for the charity, Katy Tadayon, said “it is wonderful that the Gwalia singers have chosen to support Marie Curie Cancer Care at their performances by wearing our daffodils. Every daffodil helps us continue to provide end of life care for local people who need it”.

 

Disneyland, Paris 2009

 

We have completed our second St. David’s Welsh Festival in Disneyland, Paris, which took place over the weekend March 6th – 8th.

 

A total of 35 choristers, together with our MD and accompanist, left Swansea on Thursday evening and stayed overnight in London before departing on the 6.30am Eurostar from St. Pancras to Paris. We had requested a later departure time this year, but unfortunately, this did not materialise. We arrived in our hotel, The New York, which was in the Disney Village, and were then taken to the Park to spend some leisure time and have lunch. After returning to the hotel to book into our rooms, our accompanist, Rhian and deputy, Steve, decided to race each other around the hotel’s ice rink. Nick, MD, looked on anxiously, but, thankfully, there were no accidents!!  We were then taken back to the Park at 5pm for rehearsals, firstly in the Fantasy Theatre, and then on to the stage outside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. This was followed by an early night in readiness for our heavy workload the following day.

 

Saturday morning saw a few of us starting the day in the hotel swimming pool before being picked up to go to the Park. Luckily it was dry and reasonably still so we were able to sing on the outside stage at the Castle. We were so pleased to do this, as last year we were confined to the theatre, due to poor weather. This was an instant hit with both the organisers and the general public who turned up in their hundreds to listen to our performances. We sang 4 times during the day and each performance was greeted with a great ovation and it was good to see so many people over from Wales for the occasion. After our final concert, some of us stayed on to see a performance in the Fantasy Theatre from the excellent Pembrokeshire School philharmonic wind ensemble. An early(!) night followed, as there was another busy day ahead.

 

We woke to heavy rain on the Sunday morning and the first 2 performances at midday and 1pm were in doubt. However, the organisers were convinced that the weather would improve and, unlike last year, were prepared to wait a little longer to decide where we would sing for the day. In the end, we went to the Theatre for the midday concert and then the show at 1pm was cancelled. We had lunch and, as forecast, the sun came out, and we were able to sing on the outside stage for the 2 afternoon shows. It was obvious that the organisers really wanted us to sing outdoors due to the success of the previous day. Both shows went very well again and our work was complete.

 

Unknown to Rhian, who is getting married this May, we had arranged a surprise ‘stag’ night for her on the last night and everyone had brought white shirts, black ties, dark glasses and a trilby for a ‘Blues Brothers’ theme night. We managed to ensure that Rhian was last down to the bar and everyone was waiting, appropriately dressed, and a rendition of the vultures’ song, ‘We’re Your Friends’ from Jungle Book was rendered. We had learnt this especially for the trip and it was just right for the occasion. Rhian was gobsmacked, and her face was a picture. We had booked a table in our favourite restaurant for the evening, and a great night of singing and drinking followed.

 

We returned to Swansea on Monday 9th and, once again, the trip was a huge success. Thanks must go to our music team of Nick, Rhian and Steve and also to Alan Clewett, our secretary, who organised everything so efficiently. Thanks also to Martine, Caroline, Antonio and Graham, from Disneyland, who looked after us so well during our stay.

 

Click here to see some pictures from the weekend

 

 

March 2009

 

MRSA Concert – Birmingham

We travelled to the Royal British Legion Hall in Northfield, Birmingham for a charity concert for MRSA Support, which is a nationwide support group for supporters, dependants, relatives, and friends of people who contract MRSA. The concert was originally the idea of Brian Norman, who had joined our choir, but tragically died before a date had been organised. Brian suffered from MRSA and was very active within the support group in Swansea. We sang to a packed hall and were joined by Ciara and Rory McGhie who performed a number of items. The compère was Dick Shepherd, a renowned, but now retired, stuntman. His claim to fame is that he has wrecked over 2000 cars in films and television and worked on the original film of ‘The Italian Job’. We finished our programme to a rousing ovation with many requests for our return in the future. Many thanks to Tony Field, the national chairman, for organising the event and looking after us so well.

 

 

May 2009

 

On 9th May 2009, the choir performed at a very special wedding. Held outside in the lovely setting of the grounds of Penrice Castle, the choir's accompanist married her fiancée, Ben. Hopefully we have not lost an accompanist, but gained a drummer! Click here for more photographs.

 

 

 

June 2009

 

 Annual Concert

 

Our annual concert was held again at All Saints Church, Oystermouth on 6th June. We opened with a new piece to our repertoire O Gymru, which is a very patriotic Welsh song and the first section finished with Gordon Langford’s arrangement of The Lost Chord. This featured Steve on the organ and the piece built to an amazing climax.

 

Our soloists this year were Eirlys Myfanwy Davies and Jonathan Lycett. Eirlys has just performed in the Royal Albert Hall, London, with the Joint Festival of Welsh Massed Voices and regularly appears on S4C. She sang a variety of pieces including Mozart’s Un moto di joia and Jason Howard’s arrangement of Cymru Fach. Jonathan was highly entertaining, as usual, singing mainly songs from the shows and finishing with Adolphe Adam’s famous The Holy City.

 

We completed the programme with a number of lighter items including Robbie Williams’ Angels and a medley of songs by Abba.

 

 When Nick took over as musical director over 2 years ago, we had to recruit new members and it was pleasing to see that we had 46 choristers on stage. This was, therefore, the largest number that we have ever assembled at a concert.

 

Many thanks must go to Nick, Rhian and Steve for all their hard work in putting the programme together and also to the committee for making the evening such a success. We must also thank the ‘ladies’ for supplying a buffet for the choir and guests after the concert which was held in the church hall.

 

 Friday 12th June

 

Following our ‘Annual’ on Saturday we performed at St Luke’s Church, Cwmbwrla for WOPA, the Waun Wen Old Pupils Association. This is an annual event put on by the association and it was the first time that the choir had been invited. Also taking part were the school choir of Waun Wen Primary. The audience were well entertained and we ended with both choirs singing our ‘Abba Medley’. This was totally unrehearsed but, with the added energy of the children, we got through it to a standing ovation. Thanks to our old friend Roy Lloyd for inviting us and for putting the concert together.

 

A sad month for the choir - chairman Paul Smith passed away very suddenly. Paul had been a member of the choir for 18 years and had served on the committee for 10 years before becoming chairman in 2008. Paul played rugby for Swansea Uplands in his younger days and was a current member of the 41 club. He was a very popular chairman and was the instigator of our trip to Birr last year. Paul was simply a wonderful person and will be sadly missed by all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 2009

 

Our performances for July were centred around one very busy weekend. Firstly, on Friday 10th we sang at the funeral of Paul Smith, our chairman, at All Saints in Oystermouth. This was obviously a very sombre occasion for all, and we sang Faure’s ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’, which was one of Paul’s favourite pieces.

 

That evening we sang at St Hilarys, Killay to raise money for church funds. We were joined by a number of young church members who sang musical hits from the shows. The evening was very well compered by Rev. Tim Williams, whose son was one of the soloists.

 

The next day, at lunch time, we sang at the wedding of Lee and Sarah Davies at St Peters in Newton. This meant that we performed at 3 different venues and for 3 unrelated causes. Is this a record? Our musical director, Nick, was very pleased with the commitment of the choir over this weekend, as at each venue there were over 36 voices. A tremendous achievement.

 

 

August 2009

 

Unfortunately our first concert in August at Llanrhidian was cancelled for a number of reasons, but on Saturday 22nd we sang at the wedding of Laura Keitch at St Teilo’s, Pontarddulais. This was a lovely occasion. The choir and Rhian were squeezed into the gallery at the back of the church and Nick was precariously perched in front, with only a wobbly rail between him and a 15 foot drop to the church below!!

 

 

September 2009

 

Our performances in September came on 2 consecutive days. On Friday 11th we sang at the wedding party of Mervyn Griffiths, son of Dai Griffiths, one of our 2nd basses. This was held at the Dockers Club in St Thomas and we received a standing ovation on completion of our short concert. It was great to see a large number of youngsters thoroughly enjoying the singing, although none have come to join us yet!

 

The next day we sang at the wedding of Nia Williams in Alltwen Chapel, Alltwen.

 

 

October 2009

 

On Friday 9th we sang at the opening of Llys Gwyn, the former police station in Orchard Street. Our main sponsor - Grwp Gwalia - has completely revamped the building into student accommodation, conference rooms, shops and a cafe, amongst other things. This was an opportunity to sing 2 new pieces recently added to our repertoire: ‘Let All Men Sing’ and ‘An American Trilogy’. Both went well and the venue proved to be a great place to sing.

 

The following night we performed at the City Temple, Dyfatty Street, for a concert to raise money for the Cardiomyopathy Association. We were fortunate to be joined by Osian and Elidir Dafydd, 2 very talented violinists, and a number of students from Neath and Port Talbot College. Also playing was the West Glamorgan Youth Saxophone Quartet. The evening was wonderfully compered by Kevin Johns and we were able to raise £570.00 for the charity.

 

Friday 16th saw us performing for the Pontardawe Senior Citizens. This has been a regular feature on our calendar for many years, although we were not able to perform at the usual venue, as it had been badly damaged by fire. Once again, we were well received and we all enjoyed the food provided by the ladies after the concert.

 

We have many visitors to our rehearsals throughout the year, and we were pleased to have a celebrity with us this month. Guillem Bauza, who plays for the Swans, popped down with his grandfather. He said that they were walking past the Yacht Club when they heard the wonderful singing and couldn’t resist coming in to listen.

 

 

December 2009

 

We had a very busy period with 4 performances in 7 days from 4th to 10th. Our first performance was at a Christmas lunch at Swansea University organised by the Catering Department for staff and the general public. We sang a mixture of Christmas songs and items from our normal repertoire, and enjoyed a post performance buffet, again provided by the Catering Department. Thanks to one of our 1st basses and Catering Manager for the University, Les Carmichael, for organising the event and ‘finding’ a rather scrumptious sherry trifle to finish off the buffet! The next day we sang at the wedding of Holly Williams, the step-daughter of another of our 1st basses John Davies. This took place at the Manor Park, Clydach.

 

Tuesday 8th saw us singing at our annual Christmas Concert, organised by the Ladies committee. Again we sang a mixture of items and included a new item to our Christmas repertoire, ‘The Infant King’. We also sang Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ with Rhian playing the piano and Steve playing a string and bass accompaniment on the keyboard. This proved very effective. We raised £300 for Young Carers in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, and the evening ended with the usual carol singing enjoyed by all.

 

The following Thursday we sang at the Vivian Hall in Blackpill. This is another of our ‘annual’ events at Christmas. The hall was packed as usual and again we sang a mixture of items.

 

The commitment of the singers over this busy time was exceptional with an average of 40 voices at each performance. This was very pleasing for our musical team, as much hard work was put in during the previous month to prepare for these events.

 

 

Next decade: the 2010s

 

 

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