REVIEW - ANNUAL FRIENDSHIP CONCERT

Friday 05 December 2008

THE FRIENDS OF ST MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, BRIDGEND HELD ITS ANNUAL FRIENDSHIP CONCERT ON FRIDAY, 5TH DECEMBER 2008. CHOIR PRESS OFFICER, DAVID BURT, SPOKE TO A NUMBER OF ATTENDEES TO ASSIST WITH THE FOLLOWING COMMENTS.......

Father William Isaac welcomed friends old & new to this annual music celebration and paid tribute to the choirs and soloists who make the event possible. This year, the Choirs featured were Bridgend Male Choir, Ynysybwl Ladies Choir and the children of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School Choir. Host Choir, BMC commenced the evenings entertainment.   

Musical Director, John Jenkins led the Choir through its paces to his obvious pleasure, before inviting one of a number of ladies choirs who have made guest appearances in recent years to take the stage. Rhiannon Williams-Hale, Musical Director of Ynysybwl Ladies Choir and former accompanist of the Bridgend Male Choir led her 19 ladies through a wonderful selection of music. Opening with Michael Diack’s Sing a Song of Sixpence and John Rutter’s All Things Bright and Beautiful, both especially to the delight of the many children present, the Choir moved into Robert Mandell’s arrangement of The Lord is My Shepherd, so different from the arrangement made popular by the Vicar of Dibley television series. The next item had the audience spellbound, as gifted soprano Loreen Davies and Rhiannon launched into the Flower Duet, one of the clear highlights of the evening. Loreen is gifted with a rich and resonant voice and how nice to hear Rhiannon’s lovely sound again. The children then took the stage with the aplomb seen last year by the many returning concert-goers.  

Immaculately turned out in smart school uniform, this group of students is a credit to their parents and their teachers, none more so than music teacher, Gillian Weale who had worked wonders yet again. The children entertained with a traditional Christmas selection including, The Holly Bears a Berry; Away in a Manger sung delightfully in Welsh and the Calypso Carol. The men of Bridgend returned to end the first half with three items, two of which were composed by Choir Patron, Karl Jenkins and are the most delicate of tunes sung with real feeling and tenderness by this group of 70 male voices. Benedictus from The Armed Man and Pie Iesu from Requiem were particularly well received and demonstrated the versatility of these fine choristers. Llantwit Major’s Gwyn Williams sang the solo verse in Pie Iesu, receiving similar acclaim as his tenor colleague, Graham Collins earlier, when he beautifully sang Eli Jenkins' Prayer.   

The children opened the second half to help celebrate the birthday of the Church which re-opened its doors on Christmas Eve, 10 years ago. This time a modern Christmas selection was chosen, We Come to See the Baby, The Worship Song and the writer’s favourite, the popular Hallelujah, where the movement on stage matched the happy sound. The children and conductor, Mrs. Weale received a deserved standing ovation and now look forward with anticipation to the School’s Christmas Concert. The ladies of Ynysybwl, attired in seasonal red blouses, returned to great applause and anticipation and the audience was not to be disappointed.

Opening with the joyous harmonies of Rutter’s The Angels' Carol, the full Church was to be treated to Suo-Gan sung with perfect timing and excellent breathing, almost as one continual note with not a join to be heard. Hush, Hear the Angels Sing was a joy to behold, before the ladies sang Josh Graham’s You Raise Me Up, a musical piece so popular with choirs. The performance ended with the solo voice of Rhiannon leading her colleagues into the snappy One from A Chorus Line to show the versatility of this lovely Choir. As with the male choir, all eyes were focused on the Musical Director who had total control and were not buried in folders, ensuring a 100% concentration and commitment, well reflected in the sound produced.

The Bridgend Male Choir concluded the singing part of the Concert, with further variety, featuring the lovely solo voice of Leon Evans in Morte Criste and including the foot-tapping Every Time I Feel the Spirit and Cy Coleman’s Rhythm of Life, before joining with the ladies to sing You'll Never Walk Alone and O Come All Ye Faithful. The standing ovation given to the children earlier was repeated for both senior Choirs.   

In between all this, Bridgend’s Scott Williams demonstrated real skills with his organ playing. He not only played processional items to ensure smooth continuity, but supported the piano accompaniment in a number of items to “enhance” the sound and music piece portrayal. His solo rendition of Dubois Toccata in G Major was a triumph. His proud father, Dennis is a fine chorister with Bridgend Male Choir and is regularly approached to check his equally talented son’s availability.   

One person not mentioned, but without whom the evening’s success could not have been achieved is the brilliant young accompanist, Laura Smith. Studying for her Masters Degree in Music Therapy at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Laura ably accompanied both senior Choirs with all items throughout the evening. There is almost a family issue here, as Rhiannon was accompanist at Bridgend for five years, at the same time conducting the Ynysybwl Ladies Choir where Laura was accompanist. Laura was introduced to Bridgend in 2006 and when the opportunity arose, she more than ably stepped in. The reception for her from both Choirs shows she is regarded as a friend by both and certainly treasured by the boys at Bridgend.   

Bridgend Male Choir next appears at St Mary’s Nolton Church, Bridgend at 7 pm on Saturday, 13th December at the Christmas Tree Festival. The Choir introduces 13 year old Jacob Lewis of Court Colman into its performance.