St Mary's Catholic Church Annual Concert

Friday 01 December 2006

Review by Tim O'Hagan, Penyfai

The annual concert in aid of Church funds given at St Mary’s RC Church, Bridgend on 1st December 2006, proved to be a triple flavoured feast of music which drew a series of standing ovations from the audience. The three flavours were provided by the Bridgend Male Choir, the Cantorion Pontyclun Ladies Choir and the wonderfully talented, Cardiff-based soprano, Jennifer Walker.

The Bridgend Choir were delighted to appear again at St Mary’s not only because of the warm welcome given by the clergy and Church members, but also because the acoustics of the building make it such a delightful place to sing. Bridgend opened the first part of the concert with a series of old favourites: Rachie, This Little Light of Mine, Eli Jenkins Prayer, with narrator John Jones & choir soloist Graham Collins and Calon Lan.

Jennifer Walker, a first-class honours graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, then showed her outstanding talent with spell-binding performances of Summertime from Porgy & Bess, and I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady.

Cantorion Pontyclun then made a sensational start to their programme with One from Chorus Line, Sun and Moon from Miss Saigon, their version of I Could Have Danced All Night and the beautifully melodic Y Mae Afon. Founded in 1977, originally as a mixed choir, Cantorion Pontyclun established its reputation with Eisteddfod victories and performances in the Albert Hall and St David’s Hall Cardiff. In addition, they have raised many thousands of pounds for charities. The Ladies Choir is particularly proud of having raised funds for Kidney Research and the Brain Injury Trust, among others.

For the Bridgend Male Choir, the concert was also an opportunity to “dress rehearse” several numbers which they will sing in the Wales Millennium Centre when supporting Katherine Jenkins in her three Cardiff concerts on 6th, 7th and 8th December 2006. With Jennifer Walker kindly acting as a superb stand-in for Katherine, the audience were further delighted with arrangements of Amazing Grace, Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen, and the Tom Jones classic Green, Green Grass of Home. For the well known Be My Love, the “stand-in” soloist was the choir’s own tenor, Leon Evans. Supporting maestro, John Jenkins and making her concert debut was the Choir’s new Deputy Accompanist, Laura Smith. The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama has provided some real talent to support the Bridgend choristers and Laura is blessed with the skills of her predecessors.

In their second contribution, the Cantorion Pontyclun sang April in Paris, Moon River and America from West Side Story, all of which suited their beautifully balanced singing. Their rendering of Tydi a Rhoddaist then brought the house to their feet. Under the baton of Luke Spencer and accompanied by Helen Wilson, they proved themselves to be a choir of outstanding quality, deserving of their growing reputation.

In her last solo spot of the evening, Jennifer Walker had everyone enraptured with her wonderful rendering of the haunting Song of the Moon from Rusalka by Dvorak. She is certainly a young talent for music fans to watch out for.

The Bridgend choir’s last section included one of their favourites, Bui Doi from Miss Saigon, soloist Paul Carter and a new item in their repertoire, You'll Never Walk Alone, aided again by Jennifer Walker. Judging from the rounds of applause from the full house audience, the whole programme was a tremendous success. As the compere, Gareth Davies, summed it up, they had had a £45 concert for £6!!