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Saturday 23 May 2015

The Choir is grateful to Clare Davies, Porthcawl for her comprehensive review.    

Once again Bridgend Male Choir hosted a much loved concert at St. Mary's R.C. Church in Bridgend, supporting Prostate Cymru. Annually 11,000 men’s lives are claimed by this dreadful disease.  

    BMC stood proudly alongside The Rutgers University Glee Club from New Jersey, USA in a joint concert to help raise funds for this charity. With a church filled with members of the public, they waited in anticipation for the arrival on stage of these two prestigious choirs, with a more mature Bridgend Male Choir giving the young Rutgers choir of 76 all under the age of 25 a run for their money.

   Compeer Gareth J. Davies announced the itinerary for the first part of the evening and welcomed his namesake, Gareth W Davies who was making making his debut appearance. The Concert opened with The Star Spangled Banner, with the audience upstanding in honour of their guests, 'The Rutgers University Glee Club'. This ended with a loud applause from the audience. Following this they sung their hearts out to Men of Harlech, Yfory (Tomorrow), and Pan Fo'r Nos Yn Hir (When the night is long and the dawn is far away), sung very softly building it up to a wonderful crescendo to this beautiful haunting Welsh love song, exploding to a loud applause from the audience ...with Musical Direction from Rhiannon Williams Hale, accompanied by Steph Bailey and organist Scott Williams.

   Compeer Gareth informed the audience that the visiting choir were the largest number of Americans in Bridgend since 1944. 71 years ago General Dwight D. Eisenhower reviewed the 109th Field Battalion a part of the 28th U.S. Infantry Division at Newton Burrows, Porthcawl. The 109th were billeted just 500 yards from the Church at Island Farm and departed for D-day on 30th April 1944.

   Bridgend Male Choir continued with their selection of songs beginning with Aus De Traube, a German song sung with hearty uplifting voices, (From the grape to the barrel, from the barrel to the glass, from the glass to the throat, from the throat to the gullet, from the gullet to the blood, from the blood to the soul), ending with the choristers hands in the air raising a virtual 'Stein'. The audience loved it with roars of appreciation and laughter, following this they sang Casatchok a 1938 Russian army partisan song, and one could imagine the Russians doing the 'Beresk' dance to this song. The last song before the interval was Rhys, a Welsh hymn composed by W.J. Evans in honour of his father (Grant me the peace beyond all earthly knowing), a most  beautiful soft haunting song, which ended with a standing ovation and applause ,cheers  and wolf whistles coming from the Rutgers’ Choir standing at the back of the Church.

   Everyone retired to the Church hall where interval beverages were served and the 'Glee Club' students socialised a little with everyone.

   Gareth continued to welcome the 'Rutgers University Glee Club' alongside their Musical Director, Dr. Patrick Gardner onto the stage, with Paul Conrad as their accompanist, as part of their tour of the UK and the Netherlands. They are one of the oldest and most distinguished Student Choirs in the USA since formation in 1872. Many of their songs were a capella, sometimes with a little percussion and quite amazing harmonies.

  First they sang Gaudete arr. Michael Engelhardt ending with a huge applause, the audience amazed at the beautiful sound of this young choir. They proceeded to sing Genuit Puerpera with beautiful harmonies.  They next sang Spaseniye Sodelal (Ave Maria ) with 10 of their Tenors singing from the back of the Church harmonising with the rest of the choir at the front on stage. The MD's arms were waving back and forth as this incredibly polished young choir left the audience spellbound and speechless with a standing ovation from everyone.

   They continued to sing a few more songs including a Gospel song 'Got a mind to do right' which once again was fantastic and ending with a huge applause. They finished with a Welsh song 'Dacw 'Nghariad which left many of the audience wondering how they sang this so beautifully without being Welsh speaking.  

   BMC  came back on stage singing a couple more before Rhythm of life which brought the house down, along with the Glee Club giving yet another standing ovation.

   BMC's polished compere proceeded to tell of a young man called Paul Robeson, one of the foremost African Americans of the 20th Century, who began his studies at Rutgers University exactly 100 years ago in 1915. Robeson had a strong connection with Wales which stretched back to the late 20's when he met a group singing on a hunger march in 1938 at Mountain Ash. He spoke and sang at a great rally held in memory of Welshmen who had been killed in action with the International Brigade in Spain. It was no surprise that Robeson should enjoy such a warm affinity with South Wales’ miners, as they shared a common philosophy and a vision of a fairer, more peaceful world. Having made the film "The Proud Valley" in the mining village of Tonyrefail he won the respect of the Welsh through his singing, sharing their social values and became a working class hero. The fictional film story became fast as Robeson became a political activist striving for social justice under surveillance by the FBI. He was unable to travel because his passport had been revoked, but was able to participate in the South Wales Miners Eisteddfod in October 1957 via a transatlantic telephone audio link. BMC chorister, Roger Price however managed to get a sound track of that historic telephone call to highlight the connection of a Rutgers Glee Club member with Wales. We all sat in awe of having the privilege of listening to this recording during that time. Rhiannon M.D. explained it wasn't as easy to do in those days as it is now. Robeson was able to speak and sing to his admirers, amongst them the Treorchy Male Choir, with conductor John Hayden Davies. Will Paynter then president of the South Wales NUM, directed the proceedings.  

   The Bridgend choristers heartily sang American Trilogy followed by Amen (This little light of mine) again with a standing ovation and Gwahoddiad (I hear a gentle voice calling to me)

   BMC presented 5 CD’s and a Bridgend Male Choir plaque to Dr Gardner & they in return presented Gareth, Rhiannon and the President with baseball caps from the University.

   The Glee Club proceeded to enthral us with a very musical and powerful version Pikse Litaania (Pour thunder pour), Moon Indigo with Paul Conrad playing piano, along with a few more songs ending with Got a Mind to Do It Right, to tumultuous applause.

   The evening finished with everyone standing to sing the Welsh National Anthem. Enthralling performances from both choirs left the audience feeling exhilarated and a little overwhelmed by this wonderful concert. Both sets of choristers & supporters went back to the Bridgend Athletic Rugby Club for a well hosted buffet and refreshments, with an “after glow” of singing and socialising which continued late into the night!. Claire Davies, Porthcawl


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