Friday 14 January 2011

Bridgend Male Choir's 50th Birthday Year finally drew to a close at the weekend, when it staged its bad weather postponed “Golden Celebration Re-Enactment”, repeating its very first ever concert at the same wonderful 1960 venue of Tabernacle Chapel, Pontycymer.

All 350 tickets had been sold for months producing a sum of money, which together with the congregation's generosity suitably swelled the funds of Cancer Research Wales, the concert beneficiary. It was appropriate that Bridgend born cancer charity Patron, Huw Edwards (also a Patron of Bridgend Male Choir) was there to present and compere the evening's entertainment and what an inspiration this proud Welshman was. He had in recent years opened the new research laboratory at Cardiff and expressed his pride at the sterling work being done, particularly as all scientific research is undertaken in Wales. Throughout the evening his warm personality came more and more to the fore both through the mediums of the Welsh & English languages. A gentle humour was displayed throughout, other than during his passionate plea to support such wonderful Chapels as Tabernacle to ensure their continued and vital role in Welsh communities. A gifted musician himself, Huw praised all the participants and focused on the hard work of musical directors, school teachers and accompanists, without whose significant input none of it would happen. As a keen organist himself, he was looking forward especially to hearing male choir resident organist, Scott Williams, who went on to perform with distinction, both solely and with the male choir.

After warmly welcoming 1960 concert conductor and family friend, Alun John, Bridgend Male Choir was introduced and opened the Concert with a musical tribute to the late Aldwyn Humphreys who had completed an amazing 34 years as its musical director. The stirring “Comrades in Arms” was a challenging opener, the performance of which set the tone for what many thought, at its conclusion, was one of the best concerts of the whole celebratory year. The conclusion of three initial items saw the first local school take to the stage.

The 16 choristers of Ysgol Gymraeg Cwm Garw went through their programme with clear diction and wonderful two part harmony and contrasts. Represented on the night by headteacher, Peter Williams and conducted by his predecessor and former head, Jenny Alexander, the school's music team have much to be proud of. The return of the male choir with further items from Aldwyn's years ended with the rousing “Llanfair” to rapturous applause. It was time for the trumpet solo.

In 1960, a certain John Jenkins had played the trumpet solo as part of the entertainment. This very same person is now the Musical Director of Bridgend Male Choir and elected for local choir friend, Meirion Davies to entertain with the original instrument! Meirion, accompanied by his very able partner and choir piano accompanist, Laura Smith duly entertained the capacity congregation with Purcell's “Trumpet Tune and Air”. To say it was well received, would be an understatement. Bridgend Male Choir then returned with its tribute to the late Aldwyn's brother, Gwynfor.

Throughout Aldwyn's time in charge, he had been supported with piano accompaniment by his late brother, Gwynfor Humphries, who went on to lead the Choir's musical direction for eight years himself between 1994 – 2002. The Choir was again delighted to sing its tribute items associated with his “reign” including the uplifting, “This Little Light of Mine”; the vocally challenging “Russian Picnic” and the author's best time associated recollection, “As Long as I have Music”. Gwynfor's legacy continued into the second half, before another much awaited Garw valley school choir, the children of Ffaldau Primary took the stage.

Part of the local community for 100 years, Ffaldau Primary School has a great commitment to participation in community events and its Choir was delighted to receive the invite to sing. Headteacher, Mrs Schofield, conductor, Annette Dobbs & accompanist Louise Jones had clearly put in a lot of work. Just 6 choristers presented their interpretation of “The Rose”, made popular by Bette Middler, before being joined by their many colleagues for the rest of their entertaining programme. The author's pick was the challenging “Hallelujah”, which has become very popular in recent years.

Bridgend Male Choir then returned with its tribute to its current Musical Director, John Jenkins who has held the role, again with distinction like his predecessors, for the past 9 years – not out!. During this period, the Choir has enjoyed further success in National and International competition and tribute items reflected this. The haunting, “Lisa Lan”; the Karl Jenkins, Choir Patron arranged “Pied Iesu” and competition standard, “Heriwn Wynebwn Y Wawr” were amongst items included and well received. During the male choir's programme, three tenor soloists had contributed. Leon Evans, Gwyn Williams and Paul Carter had all delighted those present. After his earlier rendition on trumpet, Meirion Davies returned.

This time Meirion, a member of Tredegar's champion band, used a cornet to perform Percy Code's “Zelda”, again supported by Laura and again both receiving a huge ovation. Huw Edwards was quick to spot Laura's talent and justly praised her evening's contribution. And so to the finale...

The Davies/ Sammes arranged “Memory” from Cats saw Bridgend Male Choir return for its final contributory items, before performing its current choristers top choices of a modern and traditional item from the first 50 years of its history. “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables was most movingly performed with a quiet control, difficult to achieve with an 80 strong body of men, followed by staunch favourite, Hartsough's “Gwahoddiad” which rendition moved Huw Edwards to request repetition! Cancer Research Wales adopted anthem “You'll Never Walk Alone” with its appropriate words preceded the WelshNational Anthem to bring the concert an end, after an earlier standing ovation.

Bridgend Male Choir is hugely grateful to all associated with Tabernacle Chapel and all participants in its special birthday Concert – the Choir itself looks in rude health to continue for the next 50!