Singing at the Royal Albert Hall

Saturday 13 October 2018

The choir tour of the UK had been building to this day – the Australian Welsh Male Choir would join 15 other choirs to form a massed choir to sing at the Royal Albert Hall. After all the hard work and cramming I was ready as was my fellow choir members.

The day would prove to be a long one! We gathered at the RAH at 11.45am and were escorted – choir-by-choir up the many flights of stairs to our section of the top gallery which would be our ‘green room/changing room/waiting area.’ After a lot of sorting out and dry runs – we were marched to our door and led on stage, at 1pm! Facing the stage – our section of Baritones from the AWMC are on the right and three tiers up!

We rehearse for about 3 hours till about 4ish, when we are escorted off stage and marched to the Imperial College next door for an early dinner. Well, it takes a good hour and a half to get 800 or so men fed, and we are marched back to the RAH by about 6pm. We are on stage by 6.45pm and the concert starts at 7pm. On stage we are accompanied by the members of the Royal Welsh Guard Military Band. They are fantastic! High-lights for me of the concert are getting through the 7 difficult Welsh pieces with confidence; including singing ‘Llan Owen’ and ‘Gwinllan a Roddwyd I’m Gofal.’ (look up on you tube – versions of these beautiful but difficult songs to sing!) I especially enjoy listening to the band. Our MD Tom and accompanist Michelle conducted and played piano for the singing of the National Anthem – an honour for them (and us also!)

The concert finished at 9.30pm and it was nearly 11pm by the time we got back to our hotel and into the bar! Given that four other choirs were staying at the same hotel – it proved to be a noisy and glorious place to be as we sing and drink in celebration of a wonderful occasion. I call it a day around 1am and collapse into my bed exhausted. I can’t believe that it’s all over and tomorrow I will be flying back home after nearly seven weeks on the road.

I thank everyone who has been following my deeds via this blog. This entry will be the last for a while. But stay tuned – you never know!

RAH 1
Lovely image of the statue of Albert reflected on the front door
RAH 2
Royal Albert Hall
view over balcony at our green room area
view from our green room area on top balcony – of the main stage. I would be sitting on the right side just at the level of white – 7 seats in from the organ
from my position at rehearsal
looking down from my position at rehearsal
from my position at rehearsal 2
looking across to the other side of stage
jackets off because it's hot
jackets off because it is so hot under lights
audience filing in
audience filing in for the concert – it is a packed house – 5000!
tom
Out Tom conducting National Anthem
yours truly and John Evans
Yours truly and fellow baritone John enjoying the moment

 

London Calling….

Friday 12 October 2018

We came down from Northampton on Wednesday (10 October) – we stopped at Bicester for lunch. Not the pretty tiny village near Oxford – no, the extraordinary fake shopping village that is basically a DFO for the large brands. Think (Melbourne people) ‘Chadstone’ stretched out into one street and outdoors! There is a chain of these ‘villages’ in China and Europe. It was one of the most surreal experiences I have had wandering up and down – looking for somewhere cheap to have a bit to eat and thinking to myself – this is truly the sad end of civilisation.

We arrived at our hotel in Kensington – after a massive battle with the London traffic – now the countdown was on for Saturday night’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall

Thursday (11 October) was for me a day of intense swotting. I had been to London several times before so didn’t feel the need to go out and about but many of our party did. West End shows were seen; many took the ‘hop-on-hop-off’ tour around. Others had specific places and things to see. However, the one thing on all our choristers’ minds was the fact that this night we were rehearsing with all the other international choirs, under the watchful eye of the host choir – the renown London Welsh and their imperious Musical Director. It is one thing to blend in with 800 others on the stage of the Royal Albert – another thing altogether to be with 100 and be examined! As it turned out the baritone section from the Australian Welsh were in the front row – mere metres form the ‘ears’ of the MD!

We survived – and two things emerged. One, we were not the worst choir to be participating, and two, thanks to Tom our MD, and some bloody hard yakka we did know most of the required material! We drove back to our hotel that night a confident choir ready to sing our hearts out!

On Friday (12 October), feeling that I could sight-see a bit, I took a No. 10 bus to the British Museum. It was my first time on an official London bus and I sat up top – watching Hyde Park; Kensington Palace; Marble Arch and Oxford St pass by. I love the British Museum and it was a delight to visit once more an ‘old friend.’ It was ironic that, having been in Cairo Museum six weeks ago, I felt better acquainted with the Egyptian section – but also sad that the ‘Rosetta stone’ is here and not there!

We had the great delight and privilege of singing this night at Australia House at a reception put on in our honour. Mr George Brandis, Australia’s High Commissioner in London, was very pleased with our performance, and in fact, it was one of our best. An important occasion to shine and it may be the catalyst for other concerts back home.

One night to go to the BIG concert – very excited!

bicester 1
What is the world coming too?!
bizarre village
fake village feel
hotel in London
Our hotel for four nights in London
stern MD Edward-rhys Harry
Edward-Rhys Harry
hard taskmaster
At rehearsal – he was a hard taskmaster!
thursday night rehearsal with other international choirs
Our baritones – front two rows
last rehearsal
Friday morning – our last rehearsal – gearing up for the Australia House concert
british museum
British Museum
rosetta stone
Rosetta Stone
horse 1
Horse head

horse 2

museum 1
Because there is no curl on the beard – it means this is a statue of a living person (when it was made!!) – not dead!

museum 3

trafalgar square
Passed by Trafalgar Square
australia
Australia House
australia house 2
I think I have put on a little bit of weight?! hummmmm
australia 3
George Brandis was very happy with our performance

Our visit to Northampton – full of history and full of joy

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Yesterday morning (Monday 8 October) we left Cardiff for the scenic drive to Northampton. Unfortunately, the air-conditioning broke down in the bus and so we made an unscheduled stop in the little village of Stow-on-Wold. Once fixed we went onto our lunch stop at Banbury, a little market town made famous by the poem – Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse; Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes. And she shall have music wherever she goes.

The cross, one of three from the ‘middle-ages’, has long gone, replaced by a mid-19th century memorial to the marriage of Princess Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Frederic of Prussia. Truth be told, apart from this memorial and the very modern statue of the lady on a horse, I didn’t find anything else to warrant a two-hour lunch stop!

We made our way into Northampton and the Park Inn – our accommodation for the next two nights. Being the first night in a new place, we had a choir dinner and of course, yours truly, along with my good Baritone friend John L, issued fines for misdemeanours committed by fellow choristers. All the money raised will go to charity – so far over 70 pounds!

After rehearsal on Tuesday morning we were led up to the Guild Hall of Northampton for a civic reception by the Mayor and Lady Mayoress. After a brief chat where he seemed eager to leave, we were passed to an aide who gave a very passionate talk about the history of Northampton and the beautiful guildhall. At the 50-minute mark we were still outside the hall examining each carving on the exterior of the 1864 building. I decided enough was enough – raced in for a private view of glorious main hall and then made my own way back to the hotel via the chemist for restocking on the drugs I am using to clear the voice. Many however took the opportunity to visit the leather museum-  Northampton being of course famous for making leather shoes since the 12th century.

In the afternoon we made our way to the Abington United Reformed Church for our 10th concert. We were singing with the Northampton Male Voce Choir. The ladies of the church provided a wonderful afternoon tea and light supper. Their choir had 70 members. The interesting thing about them was an exceptional recruitment drive they did last year which gained the choir 35 new members! We did take notes! After the concert Tom, our MD was full of praise for the concert overall and for our performance – high praise indeed. The afterglow in the local pub was excellent but we were on such a high coming back on the bus that several of us went onto another pub for a few late night/early morning celebratory drinks.

Tomorrow – London here we come.

pub at stow on wold
Nice pub at Stow-on-Wold – the unexpected pit stop due to a broken air-conditioning system in the main coach
memorial cross banbury
Memorial Cross at Banbury
lady on horse banbury
interesting ?
park inn
Park Inn Northampton
All Saints church northampton
Grand city church – All Saint’s Northampton
Mayor presenting choir with picture of Northampton buildings
Mayor looking a little uneasy while presenting choir with lovely print of Guild Hall
beautiful hall
It is a stunning building
beautiful hall 2
Really too big for one photo!
outside the guild hall some of the choir.JPG
Most of the choir outside the front of the hall
guide giving long lecture on building
Our lovely guide giving a very detailed and precise explanation of the carvings and history of the building
back of hall
The back of the main hall – glorious – note the text around the top of the brick work
stunning main hall
vivid art work
text around the outside.JPG
This is the text running around the interior of the hall – Psalm 115, vs 1, 16,17,18. I will allow you to look that up.
church for performance
Our performance venue
church interior
A good space
lovely spread
the hospitality is excellent
every church should be like this
I think every church should be like this
Michelle and Ayse rehearsing
Michelle and Ayse rehearsing before the choirs do their warm-ups
Northampton Male Voice Choir
Northampton Male Voce Choir
us in full swing
Us boys in full swing!
combined choirs
Combined choirs – a great sound ending a great concert! – Next stop – LONDON!

Sunday – a day of rest in Cardiff but not for the 25000 taking part in the Half-Marathon!

Sunday 7 October 2018

Woke up today to a glorious sunrise. A rest day for the drivers and choir. A group of us make our way to the St John the Baptist Church – right in the middle of the city! We did however have to dodge the thousands of spectators lining the route for the ½ Marathon being run today. I spotted an Australian flag and found out later that Australian Jack Rayner won the race in 1-hour 1 minute and 1 second. An Australian lass – Celia Sullohern – came second in the women’s section. It was however sad to learn later that, for the first time in the race’s 15- year history, two people had heart attacks at the finish of the race and both later died in hospital.

The church service was light on for people – many couldn’t get into town because of road closures for the marathon. Our small party from the choir certainly boosted the singing. The sermon focused on Gospel text where Jesus tells the disciples that to enter the Kingdom of heaven you need a child like faith. The preacher also touched on the part of the gospel where Jesus is answering the Pharisees’ question regarding divorce. He preached about relationships being at the heart of everything, including our relationship with God. A good cuppa and warm fellowship followed the service. The sun was out, and the city was beautifully bathed in a warm glow. The centre was packed with people and it was a fun atmosphere. It certainly is a wonderful city to walk around and enjoy.

On to Northampton tomorrow.

dawn over Cardiff
Dawn over Cardiff
Marathon in Cardiff
Half – Marathon to start soon
support for a Aussie Runner
Support for the Australians
St John the Baptist Church Cardiff
St John the Baptist, Church of Wales
tower
Impressive Tower
classic old church
Classic design
Nice organ
Lovely pipe organ
side pipes
Side pipes
contemporary engagement
Interesting attempt at modern engagement
beautiful afternoon in Cardiff
beautiful afternoon in Cardiff once all the crowds from the morning had dispersed
pigs
Nice place to get a good pint and some pork

 

 

A rainy day in Cardiff but a beautiful concert in Abergavenny

Saturday 6 October 2018

We woke up to an overcast sky and a light misty rain. However, according to Tom – our rehearsal this morning is the best so far on tour. It’s a pity it has taken two- and a-bit weeks to get here. Unfortunately, my voice is a bit thin and I can’t quite shake the irritable throat bug I seem to have acquired and so I have no power in the voice! After rehearsal I make my way back to my room to stay warm, rest the voice and continue learning for the concert next Saturday – one week to go!!

The weather improves in the afternoon and our 9th concert on tour is with the renown Beaufort Male Voice Choir at the glorious little village of Abergavenny. We are singing in Our Lady and St Michael’s Catholic Church and the acoustics are fabulous.  We arrive for a rehearsal at 6pm and the concert goes off with a bang from 7pm. The boys from the Beaufort choir have a stunning sound. Among many Welsh favourites they performed a medley from Jersey Boys (with some chorography) and the highlight for me was their rendition of ‘Solidarity Forever’ from the musical Billy Elliot. Along with the as always spectacular Ayşe, draped in a Welsh flag, we held up our end and the audience were very appreciative of the concert. When we sing, especially in joint numbers with other choirs, I must pinch myself to make sure it is real. It is such a good feeling and I am very thankful to be part of the Australian Welsh Male Choir but extremely grateful to be on tour to experience nights such as these.

We enjoyed a lovely afterglow in the parish hall and are safely back at our hotel just on midnight. Another wonderful day.

cold wet start to the day
cold wet start to the day – view from hotel window overlooking Cardiff Castle
learning to breathe
still learning to breathe and really listen to each other – the key to a good choral sound
entry to castle
Entry to the Castle

cardiff castle tower

venue for evening concert with Beaufort Malve Voice Choir
venue for concert – Our Lady and St Michael’s Catholic Church, Abergavenny
us under direction of Hayden James
us at work under direction of one of our Patrons – Hayden James
us at work
two choirs together in rehearsal
performing
In the concert
Ayse at work
The lovely Ayse at work with Welsh flag over left arm
afterglow
letting our hair down and enjoying some ‘fellowship’ at the afterglow. The boys from the Beaufort Choir are fantastic hosts for the night.

 

 

Welcome home to Wales – boys of the Australian Welsh Male Choir!

Friday 5 October 2018

Far away a voice is calling
bells of memory chime,
come home again, come home again.
They call through the oceans of time;

we’ll keep a welcome in the hillside,
we’ll keep a welcome in the Vales.
This land you knew will still be singing
when you come home again to Wales.

This land of song will keep a welcome
and with a love that never fails;
we’ll kiss away each hour of hiraeth –
when you come home again to Wales.

We leave Liverpool this morning for the drive to Cardiff, capital of Wales! As soon as we crossed the border many broke into song – singing the words above. The mood in the bus is certainly great and cheery and aided by the fact that Tom is in the mini-bus today so we can sing whatever we like in the bus with no frowns coming from our MD!

We stop however for lunch back in England at a wonderful town called Ludlow, Shropshire. It has a glorious towering church, quaint old shops and a spectacular castle. We are given a couple of hours to savour and soak up the atmosphere. Ayşe of course ends up singing an aria along side a busker!

The drive along the backroads into Wales and on to Cardiff is just breath-takingly beautiful. We arrive at around 5pm at our hotel – The Holiday Inn – opposite Cardiff Castle! Straight in for a rehearsal and then a choir dinner. The hotel is very prepared for us as each table has a list of names of whom is sitting where and what each person ordered (which is good because I can’t remember what I filled in on the form a week ago!)

The weather has turned and is fore-cast to be rainy and cold tomorrow. One can feel it in the air already and after a long day in the coach I decide to hit the sack early. Just on a week to the big concert – we are getting a bit nervous!

going into Wales
Crossing the Welsh border and the cheers go up along with the Welsh flag!
Ludlow Castle
Ludlow Castle
lovely buildings
lovely buildings in Ludlow
lovely building 2
and more
Parish Church Ludlow
The imposing Church of England Parish Church in Ludlow
inside church
from the inside looking up to the tower
interesting
I wonder what a tea pig is?

 

tiny streets big coach
Andy, our main driver, does a sterling job around the narrow streets! 
For G2
I walked into a lovely book shop and found lovely cards which seemed appropriate to the female members of my family – so here is one for Olwen – Janet’s grandmother – always with a cuppa on hand!
for Judy
And one for Judy – Janet’s mother
for Janet
And one for Janet!

 

 

Mersey side

Thursday 4 October 2018

We have a better rehearsal this morning than yesterday and are on the bus to Liverpool by 10.30am. First stop is the Catholic Cathedral which is very stunning. Built ‘in the round’ with lots of open space and a soaring centre part – it does look like a giant wigwam from outside! We were in front of the altar on the marble steps, but it was hard to hear our small piano and the echo was a good 3 seconds making our sound a bit mushy!

I pick up my fridge magnets and we make our way in the afternoon down Hope St to the Anglican Cathedral. This is the largest Cathedral in the UK and I had forgotten just how immense the space is inside. However, we were assaulted with a cacophony of sound and lights that was very disconcerting! It turned out that Barclay’s bank was having a dinner in the Cathedral that night and this was the three singing groups and bands doing their rehearsal. You could hardly hear yourself think. Not the quiet reflective zone one is used to when entering sacred space.

This ends just before we are to sing. For those who know the Cathedral – we sing under the arched bridge at the top of the Narthex. It goes well and while there is an echo – it isn’t as bad as in the other Cathedral and those listening appreciated our efforts.

We have a time for sight-seeing on the Liverpool dockland area and many get to the Beatles Museum. Back to Chester by 7pm for a quiet night in. Tomorrow we are off to Cardiff. Finally going to Wales!

Catholic Cathedral
Liverpool Catholic Cathedral
inside 1
Inside the Cathedral – the altar
singing at Catholic Cathedral
Doing the best we can in such a beautiful but difficult space
looking back at Cathedral
looking back on Hope St at the Catholic Cathedral
Anglican Cathedral
The Anglican Cathedral of Liverpool
massive doors
Massive window over the entry doors
Ayse
Ayse sings like an ANGEL!
us at Anglican Cathedral
Doing our best in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral