THREE DAYS AT ST. MARY'S..........

Friday 06 December 2013

   The day had started with choristers in contemplative mood after the sad overnight news of the death of World statesman, Nelson Mandela – one of the most inspirational & heroic leaders of his generation.....
   This was the third consecutive day that choristers had appeared at St Mary's Catholic Church, Bridgend having been honoured to have been invited to participate with the school choirs of Archbishop John Lewis & St Mary's at the all denomination, Vespers Service hosted by Father William Isaac and led by the Most Rev'd Dr. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, both commenting very favourably on the quality of singing and the “full house” congregation. The next evening was regular rehearsal, which takes place from 7.30 pm every Thursday evening, with some 80 choristers attending – an inspirational session, as is usual with the Choir's gifted music team. The third visit was for the Annual Friendship Concert – Bridgend Male Choir's gift to the Church for its hosting of the Choir and quality of friendship.

   Musical Director, Rhiannon Williams-Hale had selected a programme representing both the season and recent repertoire. The traditional Carol, “Once in Royal David's City” was sung with “Portrait of My Love”, (mostly associated with Matt Monro) & the Louis Armstrong inspired, “What a Wonderful World”. The Choir of St Mary's Catholic School are regular choir partners at this concert and can always be relied on to deliver. Under their inspirational conductor, they opened with “Now the holly bears a berry”, “Love shone down” & “A King is born”, receiving deserved & generous applause from the again, full house. The men returned with talented Choir Secretary, Gareth Reese singing the Austrian carol, “Still, Still, Still”, with the Choir; “Deep Harmony” - to the tune, Llef, which had received an outstanding adjudication when sung recently at the International Festival Competition, Isle of Man, before going on to close the first half with “Veni Emmanuel”, using an arrangement by MD, Rhiannon.

   Bridgend Male Choir opened the second half with two more Rhiannon arrangements, this time “The First Noel/ Pachelbel's Canon” and the pacey “He is born, the Child Divine”, both of which drew much applause and a post concert comment that the vocal ringing bells echoed with the first carol. It was then time for Choir Organist, Scott Williams to entertain with the Christmas themed, “Carry on softly”. Both Scott and Piano Accompanist, Stephanie Bailey are a credit to the music team and accomplished contributors to performances. The children returned with a performance even better than their evening's opening. Traditional carol, “Away in a manger” was sung sweetly with Welsh & English verses before moving on to “We've come to see the baby” with a catchy, foot tapping tune and the writer's favourite “Hallelujah, sing, Hallelujah”. The performance and diction of high quality drawing resounding applause and acknowledged with a standing ovation from their senior male counterparts. The male choristers moved to the planned final sequence, with the popular Jean Valjean prayer, “Bring Him Home”; the Russian folk-song, “Casatchok”, which had been adapted for Christmas, with verses from “Once in Royal David's City, Hark the Herald Angel's Sing & Deck the Halls” before ending with the Geraint Roberts arranged “Amen”.........but there was more to come.........back to former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

   Choir compère & Vice Chairman, Gareth Davies delivered a brief but eloquent tribute to this deliverer of peace, harmony & equality. The Choir was moved to add to the programme, “The African Prayer” in honour of Mandela, which rendition literally brought the house down. Whether the standing ovation was for him or for the Choir, I can't say, but either way choristers were honoured to share it with the Statesman.