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Friday 25 November 2016

Gala Concert Review by Guest Reviewer, Naomi Hitchings

It was a huge privilege last evening to be in attendance at Bridgend Male Choir’s concert at the Sony Theatre, Bridgend College. What a marvellous venue - a sorely needed cultural resource in a town which, apart from this, has a paucity of theatre facilities.   The discipline and focus of the men was evident from their first steps on to stage. Under the calm direction of Mr Mansel Abrahams they filed efficiently until the stage was teeming with their magnificent 78 in number. Very few male choirs can boast this strength nowadays.   

An understated ‘Llanfair,’ which in fairness was perhaps a little more pianissimo than they intended, due to the overhanging proscenium arch*, allowed the men to warm up and introduce themselves. A heartfelt ‘Yfory’ was moving, the men’s diction exemplary and the Welsh convincing. ‘This is the Moment’, from the musical Jekyll and Hyde followed, which was sung with fervour and passion. Once the Sweet Charity favourite, ‘The Rhythm of Life’, commenced, the men were really getting into their stride and clearly enjoying themselves. The superb accompanist Ms Stephanie Bailey was remarkably adept and accomplished. Mr Scott Williams also aided her by playing the Primo part in this duet. Whereas the initial consonants such as rhythm, Canton and Scranton were clear and percussive, may I suggest that occasionally the final consonants, such as those of feet and beat were in need of a touch more clarity. This, of course, is immensely difficult at such a speed.   ‘What Would I Do Without My Music’ followed. The atmosphere created by the wordless introduction was truly magical, moving swiftly from apparently random notes, to a melodious chord progression in seconds. Congratulations to Musical Director Mr Ryan Wood for having accomplished the mastery of this effect with such aplomb.   

The next part of the concert, expertly conducted by Ms Stephanie Bailey (who had no rest all evening), introduced the audience to the Rock Choir. Numbering approximately 50 singers, smartly turned out in black trousers and their star tee-shirts, the only pity was how few men were part of it. A rousing ‘A Little Respect,’ was followed by more musically complex ‘Budapest’ and a contrasting ‘Mary’s Prayer.’ The choreography was visually captivating and each and every member was clearly thoroughly enjoying performing. One member was heard to say “It is hard to remember to smile when I’m concentrating”, but this was not apparent to those of us in the audience, as all members danced with conviction and energy and most were smiling while so doing. Their set was completed with ‘We Built This City’, which provided a rousing finale for the Rock Choir.   

By their second set the Bridgend Male Choir were ready and willing to dazzle us. ‘Ride the Chariot’ was performed with ringing consonants and enthusiastic antiphonal dialogue between the sections. ‘Tell My Father’, prefaced by an extract from the Gettysberg Address, narrated by Dr Peter Morgan, was a particular highlight. The words were poignant, clearly sung and emotive. Phrasing was careful and breath control was exemplary. The audience favourite’ You’ll Never Walk Alone’ brought expressions of pleasure from the audience and was followed by ‘Bui Doi’ from Miss Saigon. What a wonderful rich melodious voice Mr Paul Carter has, he stood confidently forward and delivered his solo with sincerity. Familiar favourite ‘An American Trilogy’ was sung with excellent dynamic control and even phrase, cadential points subtly closed by the musical Director.   

The second half of the concert was a spirit raising performance by the fantastic Mr Mike Doyle. Opening and closing with a musical number accompanied by his own four-piece band, he had the audience guffawing with laughter from the outset. Never lewd or offensive, he showed himself to be an incredibly adept student of Welsh and English dialects. He spoke from the heart about his upbringing and his subsequent rise to fame, having performed several times at the Royal Variety Performance. A clever and enthralling performance was an excellent close to a wonderful evening.   

Naomi A. Hitchings B.A. (Hons) P.G.C.E. DipABRSM

Freelance musician (Violin / Choral)   

*A proscenium arch stage is a type of theatre setup that allows the audience to view the stage from a perspective of a picture frame created by the proscenium, or the space surrounding the stage opening, and the arch that is on top of the proscenium.Type: Body


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