Gwalia Singers

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Cantorion Gwalia


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March 2018

We held our AGM on Tuesday 6th and it was well attended. Our president, Geoff Wheel, opened the meeting and our chairman, Clive, thanked all the officers for their hard work and also the musical team for their energy and commitment. Our MD, Nick, then pointed out that 2017 was a record breaking year. We had our biggest ever choir at our annual concert (56), our biggest ever attendance at a rehearsal (56 on 2 occasions. However, this has already been broken this year with 57 attending a rehearsal in February!) and also the largest number of choristers on our European tour (43).)This is a magnificent achievement by everyone, especially at a time when male choirs’ numbers are considered to be in decline.

On Saturday 24th March we sang at Langland Bay Golf Club for the charity ‘Forget Me Not’. This charity runs Dementia Day Clubs, which aims to help people with all types of dementia. Club captain, and former International Gymnast, Lee Jones, introduced us and we gave a lovely concert which was well appreciated by the small audience. This was followed by cheese and wine.

January/February 2018

Mal Herbert

Once again, following on from our busy Christmas we had a quiet start to the year. We also found that our new rehearsal room was not what we wanted and, thanks to Walter Jones, we moved to Holy Cross Church, West Cross, for a few weeks. On occasions, when we learn new items, we like to split the choir into tenors and basses and use different rooms for rehearsing. Unfortunately, this could not be done at Holy Cross and we have now moved to the Linden Christian Centre, which is just down the road. This appears to be a great facility for us, and will hopefully become our base.

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Mal Herbert who sang with the choir for over 30 years.  He had been Part Steward for the bass section and he taught new bass members a tremendous amount.  He was a committee member from the very early days and became Secretary of the choir, a position that he held for many years. He will be greatly missed.  His wife Pat worked hard for the ladies committee, and and we send her our deepest sympathy.

We welcome Billy McCarley to our 2nd tenors. He had his voice test and did very well, and we hope he will have a long stay with us. We have also had a few other probationers with us and, hopefully, we will be adding to our numbers in the next few months.

Our quiet spell has given us the opportunity to learn some new items. We have been working hard on a wonderful arrangement of ‘How Great Thou Art’ which has put us slightly out of our ‘comfort zone’. It has been arranged by Jim Clancy, from the American chorus, Vocal Majority, and is completely unaccompanied and has an amazing climax.

December 2017

MaggiesOur first concert took place at All Saints Church, Oystermouth on Friday 9th. The concert was in aid of ‘Maggies’ cancer charity and was arranged by Dr Pat Steane. We were joined by soprano, Anwen Pike and her accompanist was Lisa Mears. The first half contained songs from our normal repertoire and included our two Italian pieces and the second half wasMaggies all Christmas items, starting with a carol sung by everyone. Our items included ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’, ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’. The evening was a great success and we learned afterwards that £2200 was raised for the charity, and, of course, our services were free of charge.

The next day we had been invited to sing a few items at Norton House at a memorial gathering for Roy Snaydon, who passed away a few months ago. Roy was a very faithful member of the choir until his illness forced him to retire and his wife, Rita, had arranged for the family to be together for the weekend. Like many families these days, they are widespread, with some travelling from Canada to be in Swansea. We sang 4 items and finished with ‘Morte Criste’, one of Roy’s favourites.

On Tuesday 12th we sang at our Annual Ladies Concert at the Scout Hall, Brynmill. Once again, the ladies prepared a lovely buffet and we welcomed Rev Steve Bunting, vicar of St Thomas to the concert. Steve arranged a Christmas lunch at the church, last year, for those who were unable to provide for themselves or were on their own for the day. During the evening we raised money for this year’s event and Steve was amazed by our generosity as we gave him over £700. He was so pleased that he announced that transport could now be arranged so that more people could get to the Christmas lunch this year. Thanks to the Ladies, especially Linda, their Chairwoman, for organising the event and also for presenting the choir with money to purchase a second black shirt for our uniform.
Vivian Hall

On Thursday 14th we entertained again, at the Vivian Hall, Blackpill, as we have done for many years. This is always a lovely evening and proceeds were in aid of the hall. The highlight for many is the singing of ‘The Twelve days Of Christmas’ where all the audience join in.

Once again, this year, we sang at St Thomas church at their Christmas Community Concert featuring the three choirs from the local schools. The schools represented were Danygraig Primary School, St Thomas Community Primary School and Cefn Hengoed Community School. The headmasters of each school were present and introduced their choirs individually and they all sang beautifully. There is always a great atmosphere in the church, which was full, and when we sing our items everyone enjoys joining in, especially with ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’, which, of course, is accompanied by Steve, on his keyboard.
Pier Cafe, Mumbles

Another concert we did last year was at the Pier Cafe in Mumbles and, we were asked to sing again on Wednesday 20th. This year tickets had been sold and, again, the cafe was packed. There was also a collection for the Mumbles Lifeboat. We were, once again, in fine voice, singing a mix of items and some community carol singing and it was clear that everyone enjoyed the concert.

Our final event of 2017 was to sing at the wedding of Jo Apperley at Oldwalls, Llanrhidian on December 31st at 12.30. We were lucky that it was a nice day and, on this occasion, we sang in the main hall after the ceremony had finished. We had an excellent attendance, considering the day, and we also received another request to sing at a wedding in 2019!

This was a really busy month and special mention must go to our musical team, Nick and Rhian, and to Steve, who produces a number of keyboard accompaniments for our Christmas items. We also had Gareth Widlake playing the piano, with Rhian, in the duet accompaniment for ‘The First Noel’ at the concert in All Saints. Thanks also to the choristers, who turned up in great numbers throughout (despite a few going down with heavy colds) to make it such a successful time.

November 2017

We had a quiet November which gave us a chance to learn some new music, and review items from previous years for our busy month ahead. We have added ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ to our repertoire, an arrangement put together by Rhian and Nick and revived one of our old favourites ‘The First Noel’ to Pachelbel’s canon in D.

We are pleased to welcome Gareth Widlake to the choir. Gareth is a former head master of Bishopston School and he is also an excellent pianist, having accompanied his school choir at a concert we did a few years ago. He has joined the baritone section. This also means that we have had 6 new members to the choir this year. A fantastic effort by everyone.

We have been working on our tour for next year and we will be going to Kronshagen in Northern Germany, on the outskirts of Kiel. We will be joining a mixed choir, with whom we sang during our last trip to Mannheim. More details to follow.

October 2017

We held our Annual Dinner on Saturday 21st at Mumbles Cricket Club. The evening was opened by our President, Geoff Wheel and Chairman, Clive. We had a lovely meal provided by Paul Cullen’s catering team and dancing followed. The evening was wonderfully organised by Carl Sullivan and the room looked magnificent with table decorations etc. where he was helped by his wife, Denise.

We welcome Steve Barker to our 2nd bass section. Steve came to listen to our short concert at The Woodman in August and enjoyed it, and thought he might ‘give it a go’. Three months later, and he’s ‘in’!

September 2017

Roy SnaydonThe choir is very sad to report the death of Roy Snaydon.  Roy was a true gentleman and an excellent bottom base, always very sure and precise in all his singing.  He joined the Gwalia around 2006 and was a very active member until ill health forced him to retire from the choir eight years later.  We all offer Rita and family our deepest sympathy and wish them well in the future.Ray Davies

We were asked to give a short concert to a number of budding entrepreneurs from the Middle East at Stouthall, also known as Carreg Adventure, near
Reynoldston, on Sunday 17th. We performed to a group of about 20 in number, aged between 18 and 28, but the reception we had was fantastic! Their applause at the end of every item was long and loud, and they clearly enjoyed every minute of our performance. In fact, many said that this was the one thing they would remember most from their visit to Wales!

We are also sad to announce the passing of Ray Davies. He had been a member of the choir for 39 years and his last performance with us was at the annual concert in June. Ray was well known throughout the area having performed with many of the amateur dramatic choral societies, not least the Uplands Arts G&S Society. He is survived by his wife, Jean, who has been very hard worker on our Ladies Committee for many years, and he will be sadly missed by all his friends and the choir.

Grado, Italy Sept 28th to Oct 2nd.

GradoThe first thing everybody asks is ‘Where is Grado!?’ Grado is situated on the North-east coast of Italy between Venice and Trieste, and is a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway across lagoons. Yes, sounds very pretty, and it really is, with long sandy beaches and a number of small harbours. The weather was also beautiful with long, hot sunny days. One of our choristers, Emyr Price, had spent a few years coaching rugby in the area many years ago, and also played rugby for Udine while he was there. He has kept in touch with many friends since then and knows the area well, so was able to recommend Grado to us.

Concert 1We took a party of 72, with choristers and ‘wags’, and left Swansea at 6.30am on Thursday morning. We flew from Gatwick and arrived at our destination in time for an evening meal in the Hotel Abbazia, which was to be our base for the weekend. We had a lazy day on Friday before going to our first concert, which was in Udine. We left in plenty of time to have a wander around the town and then went to Chiesa di San Marco Evangelista and met with our host choir, Corale ‘San Marco’ di Udine. We had a quick rehearsal with them and then waited for the concert to begin. The church was packed and Corale ‘San Marco’ started their set with ‘Signore delle cime’, and they sang beautifully. We were then introduced and started with ‘Morte Criste’ with Rhian on piano and Steve on the organ and we had a huge ovation. This continued throughout our performance and a really enjoyable evening was had by all with both choirs joining to finish with ‘Ave Maria’ by Beppi De Marzi, which is a really powerful piece of music. During the evening, as a surprise, we sang ‘Nella Fantasia’, which we had learnt in Italian and this was also very well appreciated. We were treated to a 3 course meal after the concert and there was plenty of wine being passed around. Many thanks to Corale ‘San Marco’ for allowing us to perform with them, and providing us with very generous hospitality. There is talk that they may come over to Swansea in the future and we really hope they do. We must also thank Antonella Zoratti for welcoming us and introducing each choir. Antonella was also a great help to us as she organised the event and helped with posters and advertising, which ensured such a successful concert.

Concert 2Saturday followed the same format as Friday, but this time we went to Lavariano to sing at ‘Chiesa parrocchiale di San Paolo Apostolo. However, on the way, we stopped at Palmanova which is a very interesting town, as it was originally a fortress in the shape of a nine pointed star. From each point a straight road runs into the massive square and it was certainly worth a visit. We had a quick rehearsal in the church and, this time, we were ‘on our own’. Once again the church was packed and we really sang well and were very well appreciated by the locals. We finished with ‘An American Trilogy’ and again, with Steve on the organ, we had a standing ovation. There were many presentations following the concert which was arranged by the parish of Lavariano. The parish priest spoke and made presentations on behalf of the parish and representatives of the Alpini Group also presented the musical team with gifts. The Alpini Group are all ex-military personnel who provide rescue teams in the Alps and they also gave us a 3 course meal after the concert but, on this occasion, there was no end to the wine and prosecco, which flowed well past midnight! Huge thanks to them for their amazing hospitality. Another person who deserves mention here was Pierpaolo Gratton who arranged the concert and publicity for us, again, ensuring such a large and appreciative audience.

VeniceOn Sunday, many of our party went on a day trip to Venice and some went on a boat trip on the lagoons around Grado. We had arranged an evening meal in the hotel and we presented the head waitress with a bunch of flowers and we shared all the wine that was given to our musical team the night before. Following the meal many went to the bar close by for a final impromptu ‘afterglow’, which was interrupted on occasions by the many soloists and joke tellers we have! A lovely finale to a very successful weekend.

The weekend was wonderfully organised by our hard working committee, but huge thanks must go to Emyr Price and Mandy for arranging everything at Grado, including the hotel, concerts, transport and trips. A truly fantastic effort. Also to our hard working Secretary Alan, for arranging the buses and dealing with the group booking with BA especially taking care of all the late changes we had to make. Our treasurer, Lawrence, also had a tremendous amount of work to do on the financial side of the trip taking in our deposits and instalments and paying the relevant invoices as they come in. It doesn’t sound much, but it needs a lot of organisation. Mention must be made of our Chairman, Clive who works so hard to keep us in order and to our stage manager, Rob. Lastly, to our musical team, Nick, Rhian and Steve, who spend so much time ensuring we are well prepared for the concerts.

Since 2008 we have had an annual trip to Europe, including 4 appearances at Euro Disney, and this was our sixth European tour in the last seven years. This year we took 43 choristers, which makes this the biggest choir we have taken abroad since the first time we went to Euro Disney in 2008, when we also had 43 choristers. However, only 20 of that choir were on this trip, and for 7 choristers, this was their first. This is fantastic when you consider that male voice choirs are said to be in decline, and it gives further evidence that our recruitment policy is proving very effective and the enthusiasm of our choristers is very evident.

Well done, everybody!

August 2017

Mencap Concert

Llangennioth WeddingWe sang at the wedding of Vicky Smith and Thomas Mogford  in the lovely church at Llangennith on Thursday 10th. Once again, we managed to squeeze in to the space allowed, but we did a great job and the bride and groom were very pleased with our contribution. Vicky said on Facebook, ‘You were fantastic. All of our guests said how much they loved the singing. You really made our service special’. High praise indeed! Following the wedding we had an impromptu sing at The King’s Head, outside, in front of the pub. It was a lovely warm day and many locals and visitors enjoyed the singing.

On Sunday 27th we gave a short concert in the grounds of ‘The Woodman’, Blackpill. The event was organised to raise money for ‘Mencap’. It was a lovely, still, warm evening and we had a very appreciative audience. The Woodman did us proud by providing drinks for the boys and also by setting up a good sound system. We also managed to raise £255.00 for the charity and, of course, our services were free

July 2017

On 1st July we sang at the wedding of Sophie Carmichael at St Thomas Church. Sophie is daughter of our baritone, Les, and they were lucky to have a beautiful day for the ceremony.

We had a late request to sing at a wedding in the Oxwich Bay Hotel for Brian Gargett’s daughter on Sunday July 16th. The bride and groom had met at Swansea University and don’t live in the area, but returned to Swansea to get married. It was a bit cramped in the marquee and it was set up as a surprise for the happy couple. Amazingly, everything went well and the surprise was well received by the guests as well.

Huw Griffiths has passed his audition and has joined the second tenors. We welcome him to the choir and hope he has a long and happy association with us.

June 2017

On Saturday 17th we held our Annual Concert and we were back at our spiritual home in All Saints Church, Oystermouth. Our guests were Coppercaillie, a local ‘Ceilidh’ band who were very entertaining with their varied repertoire. The church was, once again, full and our Chairman, Clive Walters, welcomed everyone and we started with the rousing welsh hymn ‘Sanctaidd Ior’, which has been arranged by our musical team, and also featured Steve Wilson on the organ. We followed this with Robert Arwyn’s ‘Benedictus’ and A. H. Malotte’s very passionate setting of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. We finished our first set with ‘Amen, This Little Light Of Mine’ a traditional spiritual.

Coppercaillie sang their first set which included ‘Toss The Feathers’ arranged by The Corrs and they then sang a song by their very talented singer/guitarist Lisa Taylor called ‘Abertawe’. Lisa then sang another of her own songs, ‘Lament’ which was sung unaccompanied, and they finished with ‘Step It Out Mary’.Annual 2017

We started our last set of the first half with ‘O Gymru’. Last year we were fortunate to sing a new version of this song with Sian Cothi, which had been arranged by Jeff Howard and we have arranged the last verse, from Jeff’s arrangement, which brings a terrific climax to the song. Then we sang ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’ and finished the half with a new arrangement by the musical team of Stephen Adams’ ‘The Holy City’. Again, the last chorus is sung with Rhian on piano, and Steve, on the organ bringing the half to a rousing end. During this set many of the choir were presented with landmark ties, which are handed out for every five years a chorister has been in the choir. There were sixteen ties presented but the longest serving ties were given to Roy Jones (30 years), Ray Pelzer (25 years) and to Mike Williams and our MD Nick who have been in the choir for 20 years.

A glass of wine was enjoyed by all during the interval and we started the second half with ‘Hey Look Me Over’ form the musical ‘Wildcat’ followed by Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. Our next item was a new arrangement of Brian Wilson’s ‘God Only Knows’ , again, arranged by the choir, and we finished this set with ‘Without You’, made famous by Neilson in the early seventies. It was also co-written by Swansea born, Peter Ham.

Next up was Coppercaillie, who sang Paulo Nutini’s ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ followed by two more songs by Lisa Taylor ‘Softly Flowing Water’ and ‘Refugee’. They finished this set with one of their favourite Irish  traditional ‘Ceilidh’ pieces ‘Napolean Crossing The Alps and Cronins Hornpipe’. This was great fun and had the audience clapping along in time with the playing. A wonderful performance by a very talented group of musicians. We then joined with Coppercaillie to sing another of Lisa Taylor’s songs called ‘Billy Gibbs Song’. This was written to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Port Eynon RNLI lifeboat disaster and is pertinent to all men and women in life saving work, who put their own lives at risk to save others. We joined in with the chorus and the words were ‘Yes he knew the sea could take him one day. But he’d rather roam free in a wild raging sea, than wait for his time in the clay’.

We then finished the concert with the wonderful Earl Brown song ‘If I Can Dream’ followed by a compilation of ‘You Are So Beautiful’ and ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ arranged by Greg Gilpin. Our final item was the excellent ‘An American Trilogy’ arranged by Alwyn Humphreys, which ended with the entire audience on their feet in appreciation of a wonderful performance by the choir.

A number of presentations were made to finish the evening and thanks must go to our musical team of Nick, Rhian and Steve, who put in a great deal of work to make this occasion so special. Nick mentioned during the evening about the future of male choirs and it is his opinion that they must move on from singing the old standards which are sung week in, week out. At a time when numbers are dwindling in male choirs around the country, our choir is growing and we had our largest ever choir of 56 on stage. As can be seen from our concert programme we sing a number of our own arrangements and popular ‘classics’ from the sixties and seventies and this, he believes, is the way forward.

The concert was kindly sponsored by the ‘London Women’s Clinic’ and it was great to see their chairman Mr David Williams attending with our own president, Geoff Wheel. Thanks must go to the Ladies committee for looking after the ticket sales on the night and acting as stewards. Thanks to Tony Brooks for working so hard on the programme and posters and thanks also to Walter Jones, who took care of the financial side of ticket sales.

May 2017

On Friday May 5th we sang at a concert for ‘Hands Up For Downs’, at the Uniting Church, Sketty. This was a wonderful evening and we were so pleased to support this charity for Downs’ Syndrome. Performing with us was organist, Alan Sykes, who was very entertaining and played a number of well known items. A sum of over £1300 was raised on the night, which was a tremendous effort and, of course, we gave our services free of charge.

On May 19th we sang at St Catherine’s, Gorseinon, to raise funds for the church organ. Also taking part were the choir from Pengelli Junior School. It was great to meet up again with Martin Bell, organist at St Catherine’s, who was accompanied the choir a few times many years ago.

On Friday 26th we sang at the wedding of Kylie Hearn and Ian Repath at St Paul’s church, Sketty.

April 2017

We are delighted to welcome Jeff Herdman to the choir. Jeff has passed his audition and has joined the 2nd tenors. Jeff, who made more than 250 appearances for Swansea RFC, really enjoys the ‘banter’ in the choir, which reminds him of his days playing for the All Whites.

March 2017

We sang at Fulton House, Swansea University, at lunch time, on March 1st to celebrate St David’s Day. This has become a regular date in our diary and there was a good audience, many of whom, stayed for the entire performance. We were also treated to a lunch afterwards, even though Les Carmichael, the former catering manager at the University, has now retired. In fact, many of the choristers passed comment about how the catering has improved!! Only joking, Les. The following day we sang at The Core, at the Swansea Bay Campus of the University, again at lunch time, where another meal was provided after the concert. Thanks to the catering staff at the University, for looking after us so well.

We were pleased to welcome another chorister to the choir. Meirion Howells passed his audition and has joined the first bass section. Meirion is a well known member of Swansea Rugby Club and sang with Morriston Orpheus many years ago. We hope he enjoys his time with us.

We were very pleased to be asked to sing at All Saints, Oystermouth, on Friday 17th. There was a small commemoration service to start where further names of local people, killed in the First World War, were added to the existing plaque in the church. We then sang our medley of First World War songs and further items and we were joined by Ros Evans, who also sang a few items. The highlight of the evening was when Ros and the choir ended the evening by singing ‘The Holy City’ together. We also had Steve on the organ for the last chorus. A great sound!

We held our AGM on 22nd, where all officers were re-elected and it was great to have our President, Geoff Wheel, at the meeting. We were also pleased to have Carl Sullivan join our committee. Carl is one of the newest and youngest members of the choir and we hope he enjoys his time on the committee.

February 2017

On Wednesday 15th we were delighted to sing at the funeral of Terry Osborn at St Paul’s Church, Sketty. There was a small congregation in the church and one of our former choristers, Howard Phillips, spoke about Terry’s life. Cremation followed at Swansea Crematorium.

January 2017

Following our very busy December, we started the year very quietly. Our MD was away for the first two rehearsals, but Steve ably stood in to take them and we were also delighted to welcome back Gareth Staddon to the second tenors. Gareth has found it difficult to attend rehearsals for the past few years, but he is now in a position to attend regularly. We also had a number of new probationer choristers at the rehearsals, which is excellent news. It has also given us a chance to add some new items to our repertoire and we have started to learn a new arrangement of ‘The Holy City’.

We were very sad to learn of the passing of Terry Osborn following a long illness. Although Terry was unable to attend rehearsals for a few years he had been a long serving member of the choir and was a past Chairman, having served on the committee for many years. He was also our representative for the South Wales Association of Male Voice Choirs. He is survived by his son Charles and daughter-in-law Kate and we send our sympathies to them. Terry will be greatly missed by us all.

Terry Osborn

Terry OsbornIt was with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Terry Osborn at the age of 89.  He was a very long standing choir member who sang with the baritones and was their part steward.  He served as a Committee Member for very many years and was a Past Chairman.  He was also responsible for organising very many choir tr ips both home and abroad, adopting the role of choir “transport officer”.  He will be greatly missed by all his family, friends and especially by the choir members.

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