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Music Director’s Report

By June 4, 2014Latest News

Music Director’s Report, Risca Male Choir AGM, Thursday June 12, 2014

How could I not deliver a glowing report after another year in the life of the choir? I’m happy to say that I can’t – only good things to tell, you’ll be pleased to know.

From June 2013 to this June we fulfilled 20 engagements and sung our way through at least 60 items of music; in other words, we are still a busy choir.

The 20 engagements included 5 weddings (with 2 more to go before we take a break) a concert at St David’s Cathedral, an Annual Concert, the Christmas show and a trip to Germany.

There were other interesting dates in the diary such as the concert in Monmouth as part of the Music Festival there, the appearance at the Millennium Stadium for the South Africa v Wales Rugby International and a first time appearance at the Millennium Hall in Garndiffaeth.

But let me return to the highlights of last year.

The summer was dominated by our trip to Leipzig, a trip that surely will rank easily alongside others we’ve made. The concert at the beautiful Cathedral in Naumburg was just amazing and singing to that large audience was quite thrilling! And you sang beautifully, gentlemen. The Mass at Thomaskirche was an ordeal, but as ever, you met the challenge with a professional attitude and again made some wonderful sounds that filled the rafters of that historic and musically important church. What a thrill it was to be singing in the presence of JS Bach himself. What’s more, is the fact that we were almost certainly the first Welsh male choir to sing in that building. I also want to acknowledge the contribution that Andy and Henley made to the occasion, they both worked hard at preparing their repertoire and sang splendidly; and not forgetting Julie’s role as our reliable accompanist. It was a short trip, but a most fulfilling experience musically and socially.

On return we were preparing for the concert at St David’s Cathedral, sharing the occasion with The Dalesmen MVC, Gary Griffiths and Samantha Hay, who by the way, will be our guest artist at this year’s Annual Concert. To sing in this beautiful building was a long held ambition of us all I’m sure, and once again, you proved that you are a quality choir by producing some wonderful singing.

As if things could hardly better than those particular highlights when along comes the Annual Concert with its usual range of music, some of it quite challenging. Our singing as ever was of a high quality, but it was enhanced and indeed inspired by the gloriously thrilling voice of our guest artist, American tenor, Bruce Sledge, accompanied by the amazing talent of young David Doidge.

Thanks to the link with Ken Dupre I got to know this voice from Bruce’s website and some reviews in my opera magazine. A careful choice of programme ensured that we heard some of the best that this voice could offer. I knew we were going to be in for a treat, but nothing could have prepared for the reality of the sound he made in the flesh. From Verdi arias to Quilter songs, from oratorio to French romantic music, from tenor pops to a most thrilling Nessun Dorma: this was an object lesson in singing. Classy and communicative, tenors of this quality are quite rare birds indeed and here was one in a Sports Hall in Crosskeys with an amateur male choir. Bruce will rank high amongst the best singers we’ve engaged over the years, and what a lovely character he was as well.

So, it looked like we were on a high, and could things get any better, or could we even maintain the standard we had set ourselves?

Need you have had any doubt? Next on the list was the Christmas theme show which last December was all about the season itself.

With the added bonus of the back drop and the spectacular Christmas trees this turned out to be one of the best, yet again! The wisdom of the committee and the executors of the set are to be congratulated, this kind of foresight shows that we remain a choir with a difference, the difference that the audience knows and comes to expect. The attention to the sound system also made for a most satisfactory listening experience for the audience, a sound you can witness from the outstanding recording.

I must say, that as your MD, I thoroughly enjoyed the preparation for the show and equally enjoyed the performances. It was great to see so many choristers on stage, the biggest number for a long time. And what a difference it made. Our guests, Sarah, Dan and Olly were as good as ever: what a difference they make to our show, and again not forgetting the contribution of our own soloists. We have a great set of photographs that you can particularly see on Facebook, and the CD as a memento of that occasion.

The year ended with a rather cramped sing song at the Rock.

The New Year started quietly, a bit of an anti-climax after the euphoria of the last months of 2013, but at least it gave us a chance to recover and start to look at new and revised material. And then we started to get busy.

There was the recording for Jon Plimmer and the Memo reopening, the result of which we still anticipate. We very much enjoyed the RMC at home concert at Dan-y-graig Church which raised £2000 for the Somerset Flood Relief Appeal, and we ended most recently with that amazing musical wedding near Newbury.

When you write a review like this it really makes you realise what an amazing job we do, and certainly, as you’ve now heard, 2013 was a year to cherish with its many wonderful highlights.

The continued success of the choir depends on many factors, not least the work done by the committee and others who help organise life additional to the music, my personal thanks to them. With that all in place the music can function more easily and we have a choir willing to work and maintain high standards. There would be no choir without our singers, you who are before me this evening. Thank you gentlemen for all that you do for a demanding maestro; but you know, we usually get there in the end! Thanks to Julie who also works hard and diligently to match the musical demands of some tricky repertoire.

In order that we stay in this healthy condition we must still do what we can to attract new choristers and I’m happy to say that over the last 12 months we’ve had new recruits who I hope are settling in and enjoying life as a chorister. We already know that the vast majority of our singers are attracted in by friends, neighbours or family members, so please keep telling those people of the special experience that is life in this choir. So many of you have said to me that you wish you had joined earlier. Go on, impress that fact on others and keep our numbers increasing. Please keep encouraging friends to ‘like’ us on Facebook, it’s doing a great PRO job for the choir keeping people all over the world in touch with choir life.

Life with this wonderful choir is good, so now’s the time to rededicate ourselves to another year of great music making in this awesome group that is Risca Male Choir.

Martin Hodson
Wednesday, 04 June 2014