Kingston – April 2018

Are you astonished by the number of amazing choirs  in Wales currently? If you are a regular attendee of the North American and Ontario Welsh Festivals my guess is that you are beyond astonished.  In the past few years here in Ontario we have been blessed with visits from superb choirs such as  CF1, Bois y Castell, Côr Rhuthin (under the leadership of Robat Arwyn), Côrdydd, Llanddarog and in April this year,  Côr Y Gleision. Where do we find these first class choirs?  I am thrilled to report that Choral Singing is alive and well in Wales and such is the superb standard that we are able to “hand pick” our guest choirs.  I think that there are several choirs waiting in the wings in the hope that they will receive an invite to our annual event!!

Until fairly recently “Welsh Choral Singing” has meant “Male Voice Choirs” but now we have an amazing number of excellent Mixed Choirs- especially, it seems, in the capital city, Cardiff.  Could it be that these mixed choirs are THE place to go if you are single??  If you look carefully there are many “partners” in a choir.  Quite a bit healthier and safer than On-Line Dating, don’t you think???

One such example of “partnership” this year was the dynamic duo of Richard Vaughan and Rhiannon Pritchard (aka Rich and Pritch!).  Rich is the wonderfully charismatic conductor of Y Gleision and Pritch is the extremely talented accompanist of the choir.  There are several other husband and wife partnerships in the choir also.

Kingston was the venue for this year’s event – the Holiday Inn on the lake front and The Spire United Church on Sydenham St.

The Friday night Noson Lawen was described by many as “the best we’ve ever had”.  Mike, one of the choristers, emceed the evening and in between acts kept us all in fits of laughter.  There were many memorable acts but for me personally the most memorable had to be the “Cat Song” performed by two of Y Gleision’s ladies.  Hysterically funny.  The 67 choristers contributed so much to the success of the evening, finishing with one of the songs frequently sung on the terraces of the Cardiff Blues’ rugby pitch – Tom Jones’ famous “Delilah”.

Saturday is always chock-a-block, starting with the AGM, followed by a seminar (Say it in Welsh) and then a bus trip.  Donna Morris had organized a trip around historic Kingston, visiting Fort Henry and the Royal Military College.  Meanwhile president Julie Wenz had arranged a Welsh movie session showing films such as  Dark Horse and The Baker.

During the pre concert Banquet we honoured this year’s winner of the Gold Award, Alison Lawson. She was presented the Award by last year’s winner, Betty Cullingworth.  Merched Dewi and friends serenaded Alison with words written by Betty and set to Llwyn Onn.  Thanks to Alan Thomas for being ever ready to accompany us, whatever the request.

Then off to The Spire for the Grand Concert.  Superb!  Y Gleision were singing as enthusiastically and with as much verve and passion at the end of the evening as when they started.  Their repertoire was varied and interesting and Richard brought out the best in them. A wonderful event.  Diolch o galon.

The main event of the weekend is the Gymanfa and of course the singing was excellent.  Our organist, Alan Thomas, commented later on how much he had appreciated and enjoyed working with Richard.  He especially appreciated that Richard treated the gymanfa as a performance, not a rehearsal (i.e. he didn’t stop and start and “practise over and over” as some conductors are wont to do!).  And Richard dealt very diplomatically with the “rebellious sopranos” who kept insisting on repeating the “Haleliwias” and the choruses!!

Yet again we are indebted to many people for their role in the success of the weekend.  An enormous thanks goes to Julie Wenz who has steered the Board so ably these past two years.  Every Board member gave 101% effort as did many volunteers.  Without you all there could be no Festival.  A special thanks to retiring Board members Trish Stevenson, Donna Morris and Dave Pugh.

And now we prepare for next year!  Location?  London, Ontario.  Date?  April  26-28, 2019.  Choir?  The award winning Côr Machynlleth -a Male Voice choir that recently won 1st prize at the Côr Cymru competition.  Definitely not to be missed.