MARGAM ABBEY MUSIC FOUNDATION ANNUAL CONCERT

Saturday 20 September 2008

FEATURING BRIDGEND MALE CHOIR & HELEN-JANE HOWELLS

David Burt writes.............Long before the Cistercian Abbey of Margam was founded by Robert, Earl of Gloucester in 1147, its site had been hallowed by centuries of Christian worship. Much has happened with the Abbey over the following centuries, but arguably of most interest to music lovers is the legacy of wonderful acoustics.   

Bridgend Male Choir Musical Director, John Jenkins was quick to spot this excellent legacy and take advantage of the singing environment treasured by those with keen hearing. He led his team through many items familiar to the audience from the rousing Rachie and Tannhauser’s  Pilgrims Chorus to the sweet, soft sounds of Schubert’s Sanctus and from the musically challenging Russian Picnic and Willy Richter’s The Creation (Y Greadigaeth). There was still time to include traditional hymns Morte Criste and Gwahoddiad as well as songs popular from stage shows including Rhythm of Life and Memory. Audience response was enthusiastic all evening none more so that when tenor soloist, Gwyn Williams sang Pie Iesu from Choir Vice President, Karl Jenkins’ Requiem and the choristers first ever performance of the Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly. The excellent venue was appropriate to highlight the piano playing talents of accompanist, Rhiannon Williams-Hale, who drew much applause for her contribution.   

The Russell Sheppard Vocal Scholarship has done much to promote the talents of artists, many of whom have gone on to achieve great success. It has been a tradition that winners go on to feature their talents with the Bridgend Male Choir. 2008 winner, Helen-Jane Howells from Llanelli did just that when she showed the audience how her soprano voice achieved success this year with some spell binding singing which had those present in raptures. Opening with Ex Excultavit from Bach’s Magnificat and Schubert’s, Die Junge, she eased into Meirion Williams’ Pan Ddawr Nos. If possible, her chosen pieces after the break were even better. Chi Sa Chi Sa from Mozart’s Concert Aria drew deserved acclaim before she launched into Tornami from Handel’s Alcina Opera. To cap it all, this gifted soprano concluded her solo contribution with the ever popular O Mio Babino Caro (Puccini) and Je Veux Vivre from Romeo and Juliette. Throughout her contribution, her singing was accompanied on piano by Rhiannon Williams-Hale ably demonstrating her considerable skill and feel for the piece. Helen-Jane then joined the Choir in singing Verdi’s O Virgin of the Angel Host before the Choir closed with You'll Never Walk Alone to bring a great evening’s entertainment to a close.