California Dreamin’

Monday 01 August 2005

Playing to a full house at the OCLP Club in Bryntirion, the Bridgend Male Choir hosted a joint concert with the Orange Community Chorus from Southern California on Monday night.

It was the Welsh leg of the American choir’s tour of Great Britain, having already performed in Edinburgh, York and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Compere Gareth Davies welcomed the 32-strong California choir to Bridgend and outlined the programme for the evening before an expectant audience touching the 200 mark.

This versatile and accomplished US choir performed a variety of pieces in the first half. They began sweetly with ‘A Welsh Lullaby’ (Suo Gân) arranged by the notable American composer K. Lee Scott, moving on to Robbie Burns’ ‘A Red, Red Rose’ and that most famous of American folk songs ‘Shenandoah’ featuring soloist Diane Patton. One of the highlights of the programme was the Jimmy Joyce arrangement of Pete Seeger’s hit ‘The Bells of Rhymney’. The poignant words here from the Idris Davies poem bemoaning the ills of the coal industry struck a chord with the Welsh audience, and the use of orchestra bells added to its intensity.

It was then the turn of the local boys to charm the audience at a venue never used before by the choir. A rousing start with Rachie ‘I bob un sydd ffyddlon’ was tempered by the next piece ‘Eli Jenkins’ Prayer’, narrated emotively by the choir’s John Jones and sung lyrically by soloist Graham Collins to great applause. Derek Jones’ arrangement of the spiritual ‘Every Time I Feel the Spirit’ had the Orange county singers cheering, as they did once again following the rendition of that perennial No. 1 hit ‘Unchained Melody’. The first half was brought to a stirring close with the well-known Welsh hymn ‘Gwahoddiad’ and the mandatory big ‘Amen’.

Under the baton of John Jenkins and with Cheryl Jones at the piano, the 70-strong Bridgend choir continued in a similar vein which had earned them such acclaim in the first half. The spirituals ‘This Little Light of Mine’, ‘Give Me That Old Time Religion’ and ‘The Gospel Train’ (featuring Choir Secretary Jimmy Thomas on the Swannee Whistle) really lit up the second half with some swinging singing. John Jones was once again in the limelight narrating the English translation of the choir’s newest work, Gareth Glyn’s ‘Heriwn, Wynebwn y Wawr’ which was the test piece at this year’s Llangollen International Eisteddfod. The finale came with a powerful rendition of the male voice favourite ‘Comrades In Arms’, and Cheryl Jones certainly tackled Bryan Davies’ arrangement with aplomb!

Mary, Queen of Scots’ ‘Think on Me’ opened the final section for the Orange Community Chorus, with the voices blending well together in this tender piece. The performance of ‘Rise Up My Love’ was enjoyed by all, particularly the fine solo by Jenni Blake and the flute accompaniment by Madeline Shirts. Next, the amusing ‘The Prune Song’ raised a lot of smiles in the audience, before the choir moved on to the well-know American tune ‘A-men’ featuring in the Sidney Poitier film. The rhythm and tempo of the singing reached a crescendo in their thrilling final piece, the negro spiritual, ‘Ain’t Got Time to Die’, the solo spot being expertly sung by Director Michael Short.

A final treat for the audience was an unrehearsed massed performance of the Presley hit ‘American Trilogy’ followed by both Welsh and US national anthems.

So overcome were the American guests at their welcome and reception in Bridgend that they declared it the highlight of their tour to date! A plaudit indeed for the OCLP Club audience and the Bridgend Male Choir, who may well be looking at reciprocating this welcome state-side.

The choir would like to thank the committee and stewards of the OCLP Club for their support in organising this concert. The choir is always looking for new members and practices on Thursday evenings at the OCLP Club in Bryntirion 7.30 -9.30pm.

The choir’s next engagement is alongside soprano Charlotte Ellet at St. Illtyd’s Church, Llantwit Major on Saturday 3rd September at 7.00pm. The concert is in aid of the British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.