The early evening sunlight slanted through the stained-glass windows of the church, leaving splashes of colour on the faces of the audience as we anticipated the concert given by the Morriston Orpheus Choir. We overheard an official say that just over nine hundred tickets had been sold. One of the charities that would benefit from ticket sales was the Mumbles Lifeboat, which we saw in action a few months ago: see my blog post
The evening would be a first for us: a live Welsh male voice choir.
Earlier that evening we parked in the car park overlooking Swansea Bay. A queue built up behind us as we waited for the new ticket machine to respond to contactless payment.
“Just waiting for it to print,” I airily announced to those waiting. The machine seemed to be taking an age to actually print our ticket.
While A went to the car to leave the ticket on the dash, I attempted to help a very elderly man fumbling with cash. The machine had three methods of payment and, consequently, three sets of instructions; this made the wording of each relatively small, which meant that I had difficulty helping the man. I was forced to call A over to help with what to do if paying by cash. By this time, the queue had lengthened, its occupants probably wondering what was going on up front.
Eventually, A coaxed the man’s ticket out of the machine so that we could move out of the way and allow others to battle with the instructions. We guessed that the elderly couple were also going to the concert, so we asked them the way to All Saint’s church and set off along the road through Mumbles to take our seats. A guard of honour of scouts, and other youngsters in uniform, had formed a line either side of the entrance to the church. It turned out that a number of dignitaries were present.
Sixty or so men, dressed immaculately in evening suits, filed into the space at the front of the church followed by the choir’s female conductor. Anticipation turned to silence. The choir unleashed their combined voices and filled the large space with a wondrous sound, first subtle and gentle, then towards the end of a choral piece full volume was reached in response to a gesture from the conductor, the final note held then ended perfectly so that its echo resonated briefly in the air before the audience reacted with enthusiastic applause.
Casually happening across hearing a Welsh male voice choir on the radio is one thing; being in front of one in an ideal space is incomparable. The sound was astonishing in its richness and power.
The programme comprised mainly traditional pieces, some of which A and I recognised, others we let wash over us, revelling in the joy of the bass, baritone, and tenor layers of strong, accomplished, and experienced voices.
Intriguingly, the front of the programme also mentioned The Talented Soloists of LARS (Loud Applause Rising Stars). LARS is a charity that supports young singers from South Wales to achieve their potential. Our curiosity as to how members of LARS would participate in the music of the evening was soon satisfied when a young woman took to the pulpit and unspooled her beautiful voice to sing a welsh song, Anfonaf Angel by Robat Arwyn.
Sydney Richard’s appearance as the first of the LARS soloists set the pattern for the evening: LARS soloists taking turns with the choir to provide a varied programme that gave voice to the obvious talent of the members of LARS in between sets of songs from the celebrated choir.
During the break, the elderly gentleman who we “helped” in the car park approached us. His grandson, smartly dressed in an evening suit, came over to greet his grandfather who explained that his grandson had decided not to perform because he felt that his voice was below par that evening.
Grandfather must have been quite elderly: he told us that he had lived in the area for all of his life and he remembered children evacuated to South Wales during the Second World War. I can’t remember why this came up in conversation. However, this memory must have made him around 80 or so years of age.
After the break, we returned to our seats for the second half of the programme of songs performed by members of LARS and the Morriston Orpheus Choir. The final piece was, as expected, the Welsh National Anthem, which we managed to “la la” along to its familiar tune.
We didn’t see our elderly gentlemen again. He must be very proud of his grandson; the members of LARS who performed were supremely talented, with a bright future in music ahead of them.
To quote from a Brian Wilson song: Add Some Music To Your Day. The gifted soloists and the sumptuous male voice choir voices added music in abundance for a couple of hours on a warm spring evening in Mumbles.
Note: I hope that Clive James will forgive me for borrowing his phrase she unspooled her voice. He used it to describe hearing the voice of Karen Carpenter. Thank you Mr. James; you may have your phrase back now, but I may use it again. I hope that’s okay with you.
By David Muir:
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