The Festival of Welsh Male Voices will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 19 May 2018. The Choir for this very special event will be made up of approximately 850 choristers drawn from 25 choirs from the Principality and three choirs from England including the Mansfield & District MVC.
The repertoire to be performed is a selection of traditional and modern songs arranged especially for Male Voice Choirs and the Choir will be led by the world famous Dr. Alwyn Humphreys MBE.
I know I speak for all of our choristers in expressing our appreciation to our very own Ian Grice and to Margaret for the way they have prepared the Choir for London. Our new Musical Director has demonstrated such huge amounts of passion and pride in his work in these last few months together with a real love and respect for, not only our own choir, but for choral singing generally. Ian also has such feeling for the Welsh choral traditions which are integral to the Royal Albert Hall event.
I caught up with Ian at the last but one practice before London and asked him firstly how he was feeling so close to the big day.
Ian: I’m really excited and I know the men are too. I‘m excited because I know the men are feeling confident and comfortable – I’m very happy! We have worked so hard and this has really borne fruit and brought us on as a choir. I have also been so pleased at the attendance levels at practice. We’ve gone from having 8 to 10 missing to probably having only a couple missing, usually for genuine reasons. The men have been arriving early so that we can start on time to start work.
I shared with Ian how I felt stronger as a singer as a result of working so hard on these challenging pieces.
Ian: Everybody seems stronger. The lads have improved technique and especially in breath control so that they can sing through the long phrases. In that respect some of the quieter pieces are actually more challenging than the louder sing-.out anthems. In learning this repertoire I feel that many have perhaps drawn on some inner strength that they perhaps didn’t think they had!
We went on to discuss some of the individual pieces. I was interested in Ian’s thoughts as to which of these “new” songs will become part of our established repertoire.
Ian: All of the English songs I would imagine. I would like to think we can turn Anfonal Angel into an English piece. The words are very beautiful in Welsh but also the English words match the song so perfectly. I have heard a Welsh Choir sing this piece in English and they told me that they felt it sounds better in English than it does in Welsh.
And the Welsh ones?
Ian: Y Tangnefeddwyr is one we will keep singing. It has an excitement about it which I think will draw an audience along. If we were to sing the piece in Welsh, which I would want to do, we would need to find a way to explain the meaning of the song to an English audience but I’m sure we could do that. I think the song would be a winner with our audiences.
I was also interested in Ian’s favourite pieces in this programme.
Ian: I actually love Tangneffeddwyr. Having learnt this song some years ago it has stayed with me. Bugeilio’r Gweneth Gwyn is a beautiful song. I sang this many years ago as a young singer. We sang the English version “Watching the White Wheat” but the song in its original language seems to have an extra quality. Gorgeous
What is your special message to our choristers as we eagerly anticipate this event?
Ian: My special message is that this is a special concert. You are ready to sing. Go and enjoy it. Absorb every moment of the weekend. It will be gone in a flash but will always be there in your memory. Make friends while you’re there – it’s what male voice choirs do and it’s what makes being in one so special.
The Choir originally intended to present the programme to our own audience here in Mansfield at a special pre-RAH concert but, unfortunately this was not possible. Hopefully, however, many of these songs will become favourites with our audiences at future concerts.
The full programme for the Royal Albert Hall is:
In Welsh: Llanfair, Ar Lan Y Mor, Anfonaf Angel, Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwin, Rachie, Y Tangnefeddwyr, African Prayer, Pokarekare Ana, Gwahoddiad
In English: Stout Hearted Men, There Is No Death, Fantasia on Famous Welsh Airs, Cwm Rhondda, With a Voice of Singing, Shenandoah, Morte Criste, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Mansions of the Lord, Comrades In Arms
- Nick Shelley