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Gwalia Report May 2019

St David's Day at the Oxford & Cambridge Club

 March 1st saw the Gwalia back at the iconic premises of the Oxford & Cambridge Club in Pall Mall.

The club’s annual St David’s Day dinner was the usual mix of a formal programme during the dinner, and the later informality of a vocal collaboration when the members and choir retired to the members bar.    The regular visit to the O&C is always a pleasurable occasion, and the Gwalia are always well looked after during their time in the members bar.   

 

Springfest at West Hampstead

During April, the Gwalia once again took part in this annual charity event, raising money for Marie Currie Cancer Care.    It was held at the Emmanuel Church, with 5 choirs performing a varied programme to a large and appreciative audience. The choirs involved were Belsize Community Choir, Gwalia, Cor Dinas Choir [formerly known as Cor Llunsain] Cantereas and the Fortune Green Choir, with the audience joining in during the finale. Many of the audience stayed after the concert to chat over nibbles and a glass or two of wine.    

The feedback was ‘Your attendance, musicianship and general good nature and enthusiasm were all so much appreciated.  So many people afterwards said they thought the standard of the choirs and the wonderful variety of music was higher than ever’.    These interactions between choir members and audience should be encouraged as they are a wonderful vehicle for spreading the Welsh culture.    

 

Old Deer Park

Later in April, London Welsh RFC played their final match of the season, and the Gwalia joined the LW Rugby Choir at Old Deer Park to provide pre-match and post-match entertainment. The match was the Final of the Middlesex Bowl, with London Welsh RFC capping off a great season with a 34-12 win over Finsbury Park.   Needless to say, the celebrations and bar repertoire ran on for a very long time.

 

Upcoming Concerts in May  

The Gwalia are now preparing for 2 concerts in May.    The first is at St Mary’s Church, Horton Kirby. This a regular bi-annual visit where the proceeds are in aid of the church restoration. This engagement has been running for many years, and many good friendships have built up over that time.  The church is always full, as the village appreciates the commitment of the choir to the venue.    The programme is always varied and informal, with interesting solo performances not normally associated with a male choir.

The second concert will be a very lively one, as the Gwalia take part in a joint concert with the ‘Richmond Rock Choir’.    The Concert is in aid of the charity ‘Learning English at Home’, and is being held at Duke St. Church, Richmond on May 29th………….All are welcome

 

Gwalia Report Feb 2019

 Northern France

The end of 2018 saw a varied series of Gwalia performances. It started off in early November with a series of concerts in Perenchies [Lille] France, to coincide with 11th November Rememberance Day.

Having previously taken part in the local commemoration of 70th anniversary of the end of WW2, the Gwalia were invited again by the Major of Perenchies, to take part in an action-packed weekend of events, to commemorate the Centenary of the Armistice of WW1.

The concerts were mainly in tandem with the local choir, Choeur Agache, and were played to packed houses. Saturday began with a visit to a German war cemetery where a short service was followed by the Gwalia laying a wreath to respect the fallen of all nations, followed by wreaths from the local Major, and a German delegate.  The Gwalia then gave an afternoon Concert at the town’s sports hall.

Saturday evening saw the Gwalia take part in a multi-media Gala Performance which also involved various local townsfolk providing an array of impressive orchestral, vocal and dance input. The evening was finished off with a Torchlight parade through the town, leading to an empty field on the outskirts, where all were treated to a large scale display of fireworks. One couldn't help noticing the historical symbolism of the chosen site.    

The final day began with both choirs involved in a Sunday commemorative church service, then a formal wreath laying ceremony in the town square, hosted by the Mayor.  A marching band then led everybody back to the sports centre where a packed audience enjoyed yet another large Gala Performance in the local sports centre. This was a slightly more sombre occasion but there were many highlights, not least when a poem written by our own Lionel Griffiths was wonderfully read to the crowded audience by Gwalia's Geoff Rogers. The French audience reacting with a respectful appreciation of it's historical message.  

Not long after the Gwalia had sung the Welsh National Anthem, and Joined in with the Marseillaise, we were all led off to a large banquet room, where everyone enjoyed a party atmosphere into the evening. This included a multination conga chain, and Steve Davies somehow managing to get up and play the same blues song on his harmonica for at least 15 minutes. It was another fantastic trip. Many thanks to the people of Perenchies for giving us such a warm and friendly welcome.

 Lionel's poem can be found on the News page of the Gwalia website. http://www.gwaliamalevoicechoir.org.uk/

 

Soon after Gwalia's return to London, we performed at a wedding ceremony in Bramley, just south of Guildford, within the beautiful landscaped converted buildings of 'Gate Street Barns'.

The stunning scenery created a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Once again the choir were well fed and watered.

 

In December the Gwalia performed in a series of charity-raising events.

The first was an invitation from our President Cerys Matthews, to sing carols at the Thomas Jones School near Ladbroke Grove. [with the odd Welsh hymn sneaked-in]. This was a very positive vibe, with some the schoolchildren eagerly accepting our conductor Wyn Hyland's offer of a choir conducting masterclass during the performance. Great fun for the children and the choir.

   

The following day was a very hectic day, performing at 3 venues in the space of 3 hours.

 Fist was a corporate office xmas party where the staff of Egon Zehnder based in Victoria, were actively encouraged to join in with a mix of Welsh favourites and carols. Wyn even creating a pantomime atmosphere with a competitive Boys v Girls scenario to some of the carols.

It was then hot-foot to St Pancras Station where we regailed passers-by until it was time for the final performance of the day at The Great Northern Hotel. The staff of the hotel marshalled the choir firstly to the restaurant then to the ground floor public bar, where we were once again generously plied with drinks.   

Many thanks once again to Jeremy Robson and staff for their hospitality.

   

A massive £1,096 was raised over the day, all in aid of our President’s nominated charity 'Shelter Cymru'. Many thanks to all the people who donated.  

 

Cerys Matthews and Robbie Burns

first performance of 2019 saw choir take part in a school fund raising event for Burn's Night at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Holland Park. It was organised by our President Cerys Matthews and was 'billed' as a 'Burn's Night with an International Flavour', featuring various contributions from all 4 countries. The Gwalia included songs with a Welsh, English, American, Italian and French theme. Audience participation was actively encouraged with selections of Burn's poetry read throughout the evening, with an impressive 'Address tae the Haggis', all done with both authenticity and humour .    

 

We now look forward to our next performance on Mar 1st, providing the entertainment for the annual St David’s Day Dinner at the Oxford & Cambridge Club.      

 

 

Gwalia Report Sept-Nov 2018

 

Gwalia sing at Prince Charles' 70th birthday celebrations

The Gwalia were recently honoured to sing at Prince Charles' birthday celebrations at the London Palladium, with proceeds going to the Princes Trust. Members of the Choir joined forces with members of the London Welsh Rugby Club Choir, the Kingdom Choir and a host of stars including comedians Armstrong & Miller, Omid Djalili, Sandi Toksvig, Rowan Atkinson, the magicians Penn & Teller, Dynamo and superstar Kylie Minogue. The choirs came on stage to accompany Bill Bailey during the finale, with the Band of the Welsh Guards, before lining up backstage to welcome the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall as they met the cast.

The televised event was sponsored by ITV, and was broadcast on 13.11.2018.

 

A Norwich Welsh Re-union

After the summer break, what a wonderful way to start off the autumn schedule. The Gwalia had been invited to perform by the Norwich Welsh Society, with proceeds going to the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK. 

A weekend in Norwich culminated in a concert at the Chapel Field Road Church, where a near full capacity audience, numbering between 500-600, were treated to a vibrant and varied programme.  There were many old acquaintances revisited, and the choir was treated to a huge pre-concert meal, which even the Gwalia couldn’t finish in one sitting. [A first]. The atmosphere was well described by a thank-you poem from Sophie Yeomans;

 
The power and passion of Gwalia Male voice choir,
On that special evening at Norwich Methodist church, 
It’s still with me! 
 
Everyone’s face was lit with bliss
listening to the direct distinctive sound.
Indeed it reached into my heart like this;
Woke my spirit and sent it soaring!
Such an honour to be in the presence
Of life enhancing emotions
Guided by the piano!

 

Bloomsbury Festival and Party Night

Once again the Gwalia opened up a rehearsal evening for public involvement. After the rehearsal a group of them followed the choir up to the bar where they enjoyed a noisy party vibe, as it coincided with food and an open bar, generously supplied by Gwalia’s John Taylor, who was celebrating his 70th birthday. It was a really enjoyable evening that has ‘set the bar’ for future 70th birthdays. [There’s going to be a lot of people who will be 69 for a very, very, very long time.]

 

Weddings

The first wedding performance of the autumn was at St Michael’s Church in Ashford, Middx. A beautiful Grade 2 listed church created by the famous architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The pre-ceremony singing lasted an unusually long time, but the acoustics were so beautiful it was a pleasure to perform. If only more venues had such quality.

 

Gwalia to commemorate WW1 Armistice Centenary

 The Gwalia will now turn their attention to their forthcoming performances in Northern France, with a series of concerts, around the town of Perenchies near Lille. These will include joint performances with local choirs, Choeur Agache, and St Leger de Pérenchies,  in which we sing the Marseillaise and a ‘French’ version of the Vangelis classic ‘Conquest of Paradise’.

 

LW Mag - Gwalia Report - August 2018

 

A ‘Relaxed’ Gwalia taking-in the good weather

After a bitterly cold and hectic first quarter of 2018, the Gwalia’s early summer workload has thankfully followed the beautiful weather and become a more leisurely affair. Good timing, as It’s given our new Musical Director [Wyn Hyland] a great opportunity to assess the current programme, introducing various new numbers, while re-introducing crowd-pleasers from the past.

The new combination of Wyn and our new accompanist Chris Ducket will be galvanising the choir over the next couple of months, leading up to a number of concerts.

 

Concert for the Norwich Welsh Society  on Sept 22

This will be a charity concert that all are welcome to attend.
The Gwalia have historical ties with this venue, and it will be wonderful to spend a couple of days in Norwich, hopefully meeting up with a few old acquaintances.

In October we are looking forward to taking part in the Bloomsbury Festival and the Concert with the other Welsh male choirs in London at a concert in Jewin chapel to mark the 60th anniversary of  the Welsh school.


Concerts in France - Commemorating the centenary of the Armistice. 9-12 Nov

Following the Gwalia’s successful tour of the region in 2016, and Choeur Agache's vist to London last October we have been invited by the local Mayor of Perenchies , near Lille, to take part in two concerts to commemorate the above.

Although being a sombre occasion, the different styles of the choirs will complement each other and hopefully once again receive a wonderful reception by an audience that on our last visit seemed to comprise the whole town.

 

Great Weather for Weddings

It was a hot, old-fashioned June summers day, when the Gwalia led the wedding congregation at Southwark, ‘The Church of the Precious Blood’ on Saturday 30th. A predominately Welsh hymn set, was led by guest conductor Haydn James and accompanied by David  Harvey. Many thanks to both, for doing such a sterling job after standing-in at very short notice.
Well done to everyone who attended, and also for coping well with the extreme temperature up in the balcony. Also, well done for the Bride who entered the church with impeccable timing to the start of Calon Lan.
As always, it was a very joyous occasion, with added interest during the event coming from the priest’s microphone being still on as we sang during the signing of the register, and the frequent roars from the nearby pubs, whenever there was a world cup goal.


A perfect wedding day. Hopefully the weather will still be as good when we sing in the open air at a wedding reception in a house in Surrey at the end of July.

 

 

LW Mag - Gwalia Report - May 2018

 

Feb 10th England v Wales at Old Deer Park

 

The Gwalia new year started off with a bang at Old Deer Park with a joint performance with the London Welsh Rugby choir. The marquee at Old Deer Park is always a fantastic atmosphere during the 6 Nations, and this was no exception. The pre-match entertainment included a long line of various bands, and culminated in the choir leading a massive audience singalong of welsh classics, conducted by Arthur Simpson. It was so surprising to find so many English supporters in the crowd, knowing the melodies and attempting the welsh lyrics. ‘Delilah’ might not be PC, but omit it at your peril.

 

 Gwalia beats the ‘Beast from the East’

Despite the horrendous winter weather and travel chaos, congratulations to everyone who managed to get to the following series of engagements during a very busy March.

 

 

Mar 1st St. David’s Day at the East India Club, St James Square

 

The audience, consisting of a group of senior property owners, and a smattering of famous ex rugby internationals from Wales and Ireland, were holding their 30th St Davids’s anniversary dinner at this iconic venue. They were entertained before and after dinner by a combination of choristers from both the Gwalia and the London Welsh Rugby Choir, and was superbly conducted by Arthur Simpson, who also helped to create a relaxed atmosphere with a few well-timed anecdotes.

The programme consisted of a series of typical Welsh favourites, and was greatly appreciated by an audience who were encouraged to join in. One ex international enjoyed it so much he made the comment….”At times like this, I remember why I got involved with rugby in the first place”…

  

Mar 2nd A late night at the Oxford and Cambridge Club

 

As the weather got worse, the second engagement took place the following day in Pall Mall, at yet another iconic venue. The Gwalia have been invited to perform at this venue for a number of years and provided a very full programme for the club’s annual St David’s Day dinner.

As in previous years, the varied programme contained a combination of Welsh and English numbers, and lasted long into the evening. As is tradition at this engagement, after the meal was over, the audience and choir left the dining hall of this magnificent building and retired to the members bar where everyone enjoyed a more informal repertoire, allowing the club members the opportunity to sing some of their own favourites back to the Gwalia, conducted and accompanied by Wynn Hyland at the piano.

 

There’s always a relaxed atmosphere at this engagement, and many friendships have been made over the years. It was delightful for both groups of people to see familiar faces again.

As the singing and drinking progressed, there was a danger that no-one would be able to get home through public transport due to the weather. No-one seemed to mind, while the official message from the club was that “...if necessary, blankets would be found for anyone needing to stay at the club overnight.”

 

….. Another drink anyone?....

 

 

Mar 18th  Subversion at the Barbican

 

The snow and ice didn’t deter those choristers able to make it to the Barbican Centre one chilly Sunday evening in the middle of March. The engagement was at the second of two evenings of the ‘Barbican Openfest’, listed as follows:

 

 “two nights of electric entertainment recreate the live buzz, subversive energy and community spirit of working class clubs, providing the perfect antidote to a hard week of graft”.

 

The organisers requested two numbers. We sang ‘Cwm Rhondda’ and ‘Rachie’,

and we were on stage between a bingo session and a charity meat auction! We understand other entertainers included a comedian, a burlesque act and a poet. Needless to say, after a required performance of only two songs, the choir extended their repertoire in a local hostelry……….

 

 

April 24th  Spring Singfest, Emmanuel Church, Lyncroft Gardens

 

The Gwalia were delighted to take part in the recent Singfest , which is an annual choral event organised by Janet Fisher, and run in aid of the Marie Currie cancer trust.

 

This year the choirs involved were, in order of appearance;  Cor Meibion Gwalia, Cor Llunsain, Belsize, Cantereas, Fortune Green, which in presenting a diversity of style and content delivered an interesting and entertaining evening to an appreciative audience.

 

Thanks go to the excellent Lindy Tennant-Brown for stepping in to accompany Wynn Hyland.

The event raised £1,250 on the night.

 

‘Sad but Uplifting’

Sometimes a funeral can be a very positive occasion. A mixed choir from the Gwalia and Rugby choir, recently sang at two such funerals.

Baron Ivor Richard, at West Norwood crematorium, and Julie Dianne Adams cremated at Mortlake.

 

The eulogies documenting the lives of both, described such positivity in their lives, which set such a reassuring atmosphere for the entire congregations.  God Bless them both.

 

 

James Hearn - End of an Era

 

The month of March also saw James Hearn standing down as MD of the Gwalia after an excellent five years reign. He has reluctantly come to this decision through a combination of health and personal issues, and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

 

The choir has greatly improved during his tenure, and everyone in the choir would like to thank him sincerely for everything he has done.  He brought a wonderful dynamism to our performances, and will also be remembered by many for his own theatrical performances that enthralled numerous audiences. We wish James all the very best for the future.

 

Wynn Hyland has now taken over as MD, and we look forward to another exciting period of development.

 

LW Mag - Gwalia Report - Feb 2018

The Gwalia at the Autumn Internationals

 

The recent Wales v New Zealand autumn international at the Prudential Stadium in Cardiff, saw the Gwalia combine with three other Welsh choirs to provide the pre-match entertainment and National Anthems, directed as usual by Haydn James. The choir was comprised of the Gwalia, Côr Meibion Machynlleth , Côr Meibion Morlais, and John’s Boys, with the accompaniment coming from the ‘Central Band of the RAF’.

The quality of the combined choir on the pitch received many compliments, with none better than from Haydn’s report published on the RAF website.

 

…”Over the years, it has been a privilege to have conducted some of the very best choirs in the Principality and elsewhere, and Saturday at the Wales v New Zealand game was no exception. We had three Eisteddfod-winning choirs plus a choir with members drawn from two of the very best choirs in North Wales. Together, they produced a truly thrilling sound, and had clearly worked so hard to memorise everything, including the Maori words of a short Medley, and of course the New Zealand Anthem”……Haydn James

 

A big thank you goes to Haydn James for coordinating such a powerful occasion.

It's a shame we lost the match, although Haydn did suggest that next time the choir ought to remain on the field and help with the ‘tackling’!

 

The choir were filmed throughout the day and the footage was shown on Breakfast TV as part of a documentary on the psychological benefits of collective song during stressful moments.

 

 

 

Gwalia & French Connection

 

Shortly after the Gwalia's 50th anniversary concert, November saw them host a very successful joint concert with the choir.. 'Choeur Agache'  from Perenchies  in Northern France.

It was a very enjoyable evening with an interesting mix of styles between the two choirs. The Choir Agache even treating the audience to a selection of traditional French songs alongside Van Gellis (Conquest of Paradise) and a wonderfully humorous number involving a rousing male lead and the donning of hats.

The Mayor of Perenchies accompanied them on this, their first trip to London, and he enjoyed the occasion so much the Gwalia have been formally invited to France later in the year for a joint concert to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice.

 

 

 

The Great Northern Hotel and the Sepsis Trust

 

The first xmas charity concert was at the Grade 1 listed Great Northern Hotel where the Gwalia sang a mixture of traditional Welsh songs were interspersed with well-known Carols.

The evening was organised by the owner of the Great Northern Hotel, Jeremy Robson, and was held in aid of 'The Sepsis Trust'.

It was hosted by Lord Michael Grade with the underlying theme of the event being to raise awareness of Sepsis, which surprisingly, for such a dangerous condition, gets very little media attention.

Throughout the evening, people who have been affected by this serious condition gave emotional first-hand accounts of their experiences.

 

Festive end to the year.

 

The last charity event of the year was a joint Xmas Concert at Ewen Hall, Chipping Barnet,  which featured the Gwalia and the entertaining and lively mixed choir, 'Choirs R Us', conducted by Jenny Bennett.

The varied programme,  was well received by a packed audience, with a finale that involved both choirs on stage, singing ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’. The audience joined in, which made for a very festive mood. Huge thanks goes to Jenny Gould for being our guest accompanist as such short notice.

The charity evening had a very positive atmosphere and resulted in a magnificent sum of £2,030 raised on the night on behalf of the North London Samaritans.

 

 John Ball

Book Reviews

Gwalia members have been responsible recently for the production of two books - one light-hearted, the other serious.

 

'The Nant Tarw Saga'

To celebrate the Gwalia Male Choir's 50th Anniversary, Dave Hurlbut and Honorary Member, Ron 'Tidy' Williams have produced 'The Nant Tarw Saga'. This is a collection of short stories written by two founder members of the Gwalia, John Evans and Wynne Davies, both of whom, regrettably, no longer with us. The Saga first appeared in 'Tempo Gwalia' the choir's in-house magazine in the 1980's and 90's, and it recounts the trials and tribulations of a fictional choir in Wales. It is very entertaining, and certain characters will be recognisable amongst those who were, or still are, in the choirs at the London Welsh Centre. Ron and Dave have generously agreed that all proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the London Welsh Centre Trust. The books are available from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or from the Bar at the Centre. The suggested donation is £7.50 per book.

 

'The Lost Sons of Penycae'

 

The second book that has just been published is 'The Lost Sons of Penycae' by Gwalia top tenor Barry Jones whose family still live in the village of Penycae near Rhosllanerchrugog outside Wrexham. The village's War Memorial has grown so familiar that it attracts little more than a passing glance these days, except on Remembrance Day. This book remembers the courage and sacrifice of the 37 men whose names are engraved on it. In such a small community, everyone knew someone who had died. This is the story of the men who went to war and didn’t come home and how the village changed in the two World wars. It gives a fascinating insight into the war time history and tells the sad and poignant stories of the brave men of this little village near Wrexham.

 

£2 from every book sold in the Centre goes to the London Welsh Centre Trust.

 

Steve Davies

 

LW Mag - Gwalia Report - Nov 2017

 

It was a 'full house' at the end of September when the Gwalia Male Choir marked its 50th Anniversary with a concert at the London Welsh Centre. Many past members, having travelled from Wales and elsewhere to help the celebrations, enjoyed a varied programme from the choir and soprano Glenys Roberts who has performed with the choir on many occasions. An impressive £2,308 was raised for the London Welsh Centre Trust. A fuller account of the evening appears in this issue.

 

On a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks later the choir returned to Horton Kirby in Kent where we first performed 40 years ago. Haydn James was our guest conductor, Chris Duckett performed two brilliant piano solos, and John Ball and Geoff Rogers played guitar and sang Max Boyce and Tom Paxton songs. Before we tucked into the usual superb tea provided by the WI at the end of a lovely, light-hearted concert, the audience, armed with an English translation, joined in with Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. At the end of that week we performed in Islington Town Hall at the wedding of a groom from Wales and a bride from Essex who, in a role reversal of 'Gavin & Stacey', had asked us to sing 'Islands in the Stream'. As we go to press we are eagerly anticipating a joint concert in the London Welsh Centre with the French choir who last year had helped organise our concerts in northern France to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

 

Steve Davies

 

 

Gwalia's Anniversary Concert

 

The London Welsh Centre lived up to its name on Saturday 30 September. The Gwalia’s concert to celebrate 50 years was a multi-sensory feast! No less than three conductors,  a pianist and a soprano…not counting choir members past and present.

 

The concert started gently and rose to a fever pitch worthy of the Millennium Stadium on match day. Humorously compéred throughout by Mark Bevan, the audience were carried along to family and friends past and present with songs linked to memories.

Personally, Eli Jenkins’ Prayer always reduces me to tears and that night’s rendition was no exception. Glenys Roberts' Ivor Novello song, coupled with the Gwalia’s Cole Porter set, transported me to watching old films and floating around the living room.

As always, I wait for conductor James Hearn to turn his back on the choir, leave them to sing and give us one of his patient, knowing looks before retaking control. A delightful, humorous touch that gives the audience a sense of inclusion.

 

In addition toHaydn James and past MD Michael Thomas conducting two songs, there was a call out to past choir members to join the Gwalia on stage. A gentle ripple went around the hall as one by one they rose. Many had brought the little green songbook in the hope of such an invite. A myriad of emotions passed over Ron Tidy’s face - from incredulity to hope and finally elation. It was a delight to see him hesitate and jump for joy as he took to the stage. Comrades in Arms was an apt song – whether the words were remembered or not. With the Gwalia group swelling in numbers, so did the volume and comradery.

 

On retiring to the bar, we were greeted by a sumptuous buffet. The main debate seems to be centred on carpaccio – how to say it, what was it, how to eat it and who’s been abroad and eaten it! The selection of cheeses along with Welsh cakes and Bara Brith were swooped upon. There was plenty of ‘Hwyl’ when past members and supporters caught up with each other. The young made new friends and revelled in the stories, banter and song.

 

The evening held a little magic and a sense of longevity – this concert was a moment in time and a part of the whole journey that the Gwalia has made from inception.

It’s always great as a supporter to be invited to join in a concert song and with the after party. The evening promised to be a centre for London Welsh past and present and it lived up to its name. Long may the Gwalia continue…..and dare I say it – can this become an annual reunion?

 

Noreen Ball

 

LW Mag - Gwalia Report - Aug '17

Gwalia members and their guests met at the end of June at the Prince of Wales pub in Covent Garden's Drury Lane to celebrate the choir's 50th Anniversary. The choir was formed when a large number of choristers broke away from the London Welsh Male Voice Choir after a disagreement over the alleged relationship between the conductor and accompanist, a time still referred to by longer-standing members of both choirs as 'The Split'. The party was held in the very room where Côr Meibion Gwalia used to hold its weekly rehearsals before moving to Grays Inn Rd. We were very pleased to formally welcome our new President, Cerys Matthews, who, after Huw Edwards (our immediate past President) had presented her with the badge of office, then unveiled a plaque of Welsh slate which has been prominently fixed to the wall inside the pub to celebrate the founding of the choir. The choir's birthday celebrations continue on 30 September with a charity concert and buffet where net proceeds will be given to the LW Centre Trust. An advert with details on how to obtain tickets appears elsewhere in this issue.

#

When the Gwalia was asked to sing before a civil wedding in The Loft Studios, Kensal Green in May we didn't expect to have to keep it up for over an hour! Just as the ceremony was due to start the best man realised he had left the rings in the hotel and had to rush back to get them. Luckily this did not spoil a very joyous occasion. The groom's family had travelled from Pontypridd and were thrilled and even 'moved to tears' when they were unexpectedly welcomed by the choir on arrival at the venue.

 

A couple of weeks later we sang at another wedding, this time in the wonderful surroundings of the Kensington Roof Gardens complete with live ducks and flamingos. It was a star-studded affair, the actress bride being the daughter of Jennifer Saunders. The Welsh father of the groom was very nervous about having to speak after his new daughter-in-law's dad, Ade Edmonson, but he reports that it all went well. As well as singing a number of well-known Welsh numbers the Gwalia sang the Beach Boys' classic 'God Only Knows' as Beattie entered the room, and we were then asked to lead the guests in a rendition of Burt Bacharach's 'I Say a Little Prayer'. We had some reservations about this but it sounded really good, though it must be said it is not likely to become a permanent fixture in our repertoire!

 

In the middle of June we returned to Kensington, this time in the Royal Geographical Society where we were honoured to have been invited to sing at the world premier of the film 'South 2015'. In 2011 the Gwalia sang in the crypt of St Paul's when a plaque was dedicated to those Britons who had lost their lives exploring the Antarctic and this film was about the subsequent voyage to dedicate memorials in the Falklands and Antarctica. 

 

A few days later we gave a concert in the little East Sussex village of Plumpton Green. It was organised as a surprise for Colin Hill, a long-time supporter and Honorary Member of the Gwalia, who was celebrating his 80th birthday, and his family say he is still talking about it. Before retiring to Sussex, Colin was very active in the London Welsh community, both in Grays Inn Rd and at Old Deer Park, and over the years he has been President of the Voyagers sports charity and, the ladies choir, The Dylan Singers with whom the Gwalia has shared many concerts and overseas tours.

 

 

Gwalia's name up in lights in the West End

 As we start the Gwalia's 50th Anniversary year, it is a pleasure to extend a warm welcome our new President, Cerys Matthews MBE. Huw Edwards is stepping down after more than 10 years as the choir's President, and our gratitude goes to him for all his support and encouragement over that time.

Cerys, the founder of multi-million selling band Catatonia and now a successful author and presenter of documentaries and music shows for TV and radio, hosts an award-winning weekly show on BBC 6. Appointed an MBE for her services to music in 2014, Cerys is Vice President of Shelter and of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, is patron of the Dylan Thomas Society and Ballet Cymru, and owner of the Good Life Experience festival. Born in Cardiff and a fluent Welsh speaker, Cerys now lives in West London. She said, "I'm a huge fan of choral music, and am delighted to follow in Huw Edwards’ footsteps to become The Gwalia's President".

A small group representing the Gwalia were privileged to sing last May at the funeral in Paris of Richard Osman, the only Briton on the Egypt Air flight that had been brought down that month, and in November we were honoured to be asked by Richard's family to perform in a little church near Carmarthen at a very moving memorial service. As the year drew to a close we went carol-singing at the Great Northern Hotel in Kings Cross and in a couple of hours raised an impressive £440 for London's Air Ambulance. A week later the Gwalia literally had its name up in lights in Piccadilly Circus when, on a specially erected stage next to Eros, we performed to a large West End crowd. Samsung were sponsoring the 'Advent Choir of the World' in which a choir from a different country sang each night in the run-up to Christmas, and the Gwalia was proud to be the choir representing Wales.

Steve Davies 

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Our new CD "O Gymru" is now available

£10 + £1 p&p  from  gwaliachoir@gmail.com

or Click Here for Download

 

 

The Nant Tarw Saga

Available from the Bar at LWC

or contact gwaliachoir@gmail.com