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A feast of music making at Pendyrus Gala Concert

 

Pendyrus Male Choir present 2 T’s and a Cothi with Côr Meibion Pendyrus Male Choir

Friday 28th April 2017 at 7.15pm – Rhondda Fach Sports Centre

Visiting Wales is always a joyous experience and last week’s visit was no exception. I had the pleasure of being a guest at “2T’s and a Cothi” with Côr Meibion Pendyrus Male Choir, a concert at the Rondda Fach Sports Centre. And what better way to celebrate a choir’s 93rd year than by having 93 choristers on stage doing what they loving what they do. Add to that the wonderful vocal talents of soprano Shân Cothi, tenors Rhys Meirion and Aled Wyn Davies, the Treorchy Comprehensive Senior School Choir, and you have the line-up for a great evening of music-making!

The concert opened with was a beautifully-passionate and strong performance of Tydi a Roddaist by Arwel Hughes. The choir’s phrasing and musicality was of the highest order – firmly setting the tone for the evening ahead. This was followed by Aredig (Ploughing) by Leos Janaçek, a difficult piece, performed a cappella. The choir’s performance of this concert rarity was clean, heartfelt and beautifully in tune – making it clear to everyone listening that here was a group of singers who is developing and refining the craft of ensemble singing. The polished singing continued with Hiraeth – the choir displaying a real mastery of dynamic shape and tonal colour, before bringing this first section of the concert to a close with a great performance of the ‘heraldic’ concert favourite, Men Of Harlech.

And so it was time for “2T’s and a Cothi” to grace us with their presence, kicking off proceedings in a joyous fashion with L’ibiamo (Brindisi) from Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’. What followed was a little journey through Italy – Rhys Meirion and Aled Wyn Davies performing traditional, well-known Italian songs with great style, flair and vocal aplomb – I particularly enjoyed Aled’s soaring, lyrical tone with Non ti scordar di me. Shân Cothi delivered a beautiful, unaffected interpretation of the Puccini classic, O mio babbino caro. However, it was the wonderfully-moving, stirring and exquisitely-sung trio versions of Myfanwy and a Welsh setting of the Ave Maria which drew the strongest responses from the audience. The guest soloists then invited us to join them in singing one of the greatest (and most popular) musical theatre songs ever written, You’ll Never Walk Alone from ‘Carousel’.

Music plays a vital role in my life, it is therefore always an uplifting experience to be amongst an audience of like-minded people, all gathered together to celebrate music-making and music-makers. I am especially uplifted when I hear young people sing. I applaud the work Nick Bristow does with Treorchy Comprehensive School Choir – fostering and nurturing a love of singing. His passion for what he does results in a ‘Glee’-like sense of camaraderie among the ensemble, which clearly comes from a supportive musical environment. This choir, made up of very talented teenagers, sings with passion, conviction and skill.

Pendyrus Male Choir brought the first half of the concert to a strong close with a set of three songs – a sparkling and rhythmically-exciting performance of Brian Hughes’ Bywyd Y Bugail; a beautifully-sung Yfory by Robat Arwyn; and the wonderfully-haunting hymn Morte Christe by Emrys Jones. For this final item the choir was joined by the three guest soloists, bringing with them a sophisticated, lush vocal colour which soared above the choir.

Before talking about the rest of the evening, I want to take this opportunity to mention the extraordinary man at the helm of Pendyrus Male Choir, their Musical Director, Stewart Roberts. I have experienced Stewart’s work over the last number of years and I recognise and acknowledge him to be one of the finest musicians I have had the pleasure of knowing. He is a lovely cellist; an accomplished piano soloist; a beautiful, sensitive accompanist; and when he stands before his choir, his skills as an interpreter and communicator of the music are masterful – vital, essential qualities in any conductor. Stewart Roberts’ work with the choir is evident by their confidence, musicianship and musicality, and understanding and sensitivity to dynamics and phrasing – wonderful attributes which are all a testament to his stewardship of the ensemble. Bravo!

The choir’s performance of the Ride the Chariot provided a rousing start to the second half of the concert, with strong, vibrant interjections by tenor soloist Gareth Rees. What followed was some very beautiful, sensitive singing, with particular care being given to storytelling. Bring Him Home from Les Misérables (a song I always enjoy listening to when sung by a Male Voice Choir) and What Would I Do Without My Music? – a concert programme stalwart.

What followed was an unexpected surprise – a young lady by the name of Sydney Richards delivered a focussed, considered performance of one of Stephen Sondheim’s most iconic songs, Losing My Mind from ‘Follies’. Sydney’s performance was mature beyond her years and her vocal production reminded me of a young Bernadette Peters. This young lady possesses what I refer to as an ideal ‘Musical Theatre’ voice and has real career potential.

Our trio of soloists returned to the stage with an engaging mix of repertoire. They launched themselves into an adorable Welsh rarity, the Love Duet from Joseph Parry’s 1878 three-act opera ‘Blodwen’ – on this occasion, performed to great comic effect as a trio, with Shân Cothi coming out as the clear ‘winner’ with her lush soprano voice soaring above her male protagonists!

Romance continued as a theme with the crowd-pleasing Love Unspoken from ‘The Merry Widow’ before Shân Cothi performed a wonderfully-haunting Jeff Howard arrangement of O Gymru with great passion and class. Anfonaf Angel is one of my favourite songs and Rhys Meirion’s beautiful rendition (with it’s many key changes) certainly gave me cause to smile.

Treorchy Comprehensive School Choir made a welcomed return to the stage, winning the audience over with their stellar performance of Nick Bristow’s arrangement of No One Mourns The Wicked from the Broadway and West End smash hit musical ‘Wicked’.

Pendyrus Male Choir brought the evening to a emotionally-stirring close with an eclectic trio of items proving just how musically versatile and proficient this ensemble is. Anthem from the musical ‘Chess’; Gwahoddiad – a traditional Welsh hymn (of American origin); and choral favourite Christus Salvator by French opera composer Charles Gounod.

For the ‘encores’ the choir was joined on stage by “2T’s and a Cothi” and the Treorchy Comprehensive School Choir for Cymru Fach and Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

The choir’s long-serving accompanist (since 1973) is Gavin Parry – he provided strong, reliable support throughout the evening and played with great aplomb. The other accompanist of the evening was the immensely-talented Caradog Williams. His skills as an accompanist are well known throughout Wales, having played an enormously-diverse range of repertoire with a huge array of artists. Also on the music staff was the lovely Ryan Wood – bringing grandeur to some of the sacred, choral music and the traditional Welsh hymns, with iconic organ accompaniments. Ryan is a talented, respected musician, well-versed in the ways of the Welsh choral tradition.

Friday evening’s concert was thoroughly enjoyable, adroitly compèred with great charm, personality and wit by the delightful Tony Mullins. I certainly look forward to many more evenings such as this, in particular next year’s Gala concert and the choir’s 100th Anniversary Gala concert in about 7 years time – but I’m getting ahead of myself…

I shall leave you with this quote by Martin Luther – German theologist, composer, priest and monk – which sums up my feelings about music:

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

Anthony Gabriele

Musical Director / Conductor

Pianist / Vocal Coach

Orchestrator / Arranger