As 2018 closes, it’s time to answer the question, ‘What were the highlights of the year?’
As always, this is a very personal response to the question; everyone will have their favourite memories of the year.
This shortlist comes with the usual humble apologies to the choirs and singers who have been (unintentionally) omitted.
The year started with a treat – the annual Llanelli Rotary Club Young Musician of the Year competition.
The contest was won by Ysgol Gyfun y Strade pupil Lauren Fisher. Make a note of the name as she is destined for great things.
Lauren was the overall winner of the Llanelli Rotary Club competition, won the Rotary Area Competition and was a finalist in the Southern Wales District final held in Blackwood.
Lauren was then invited to be a guest singer at the Centenary Gala Concert of The Rotary Club of Llanelli.
Lauren also won the 2018 Gethin Hughes Bursary Prize in a very tough competition which was hosted at the annual concert of Côr Meibion Llanelli at Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli.
As a member of LARS (Loud Applause Rising Stars), Lauren has performed at many prestigious events, such as soirees at Stradey Castle and Llanelly House, at the City and County of Swansea’s Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Commemoration events, at musical evenings at Machynys Golf Club and at the Loud Applaus Night with the Stars Gala Concert in Ffwrnes Theatre.
Lauren won a scholarship at 10 years old with the Hywel Girls’ Choir and Hywel Boy Singers and performed at many concerts with them. Recently Lauren has gained a distinction in Grade 8 in Popular Music Vocals Examinations London College of Music. Lauren lives in Llanelli.
May saw Llanelli Rotary Club marking its landmark Centenary Year with a major concert at Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli.
Shan Cothi, one of the country’s most popular sopranos, shared the stage with Côr Meibion Llanelli, under the baton of conductor D Eifion Thomas, and the Hywel Girls’ Choir and Hywel Boy Singers, under the direction of John Hywel Williams.
Stealing the limelight on the night were the members of Côr Ysgol Goffa.
The evening also heard an ensemble from Ysgol Y Strade, under the baton of Catrin Hughes, and the Lewis- Meredith Sisters – Calley, Sarah and Steffi.
August saw further proof of the saying that ‘West is Best’.
Côr Meibion Pontarddulais Male Voice Choir proved that with a record-breaking win at the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales at Cardiff.
The ‘Bont’ choir took the Blue Riband prize for large male voice choirs for the 17thtime.
It is worth reflecting on the choir’s proud history and their achievements.
Their Royal National Eisteddfod wins came in the following years –
1963 Llandudno, 1965 Newtown, 1968 Barry, 1970 Ammanford, 1972 Haverfordwest, 1974 Carmarthen, 1976 Cardigan, 1978 Cardiff, 1981 Machynlleth, 1982 Swansea, 1994 Neath, 2003 Welshpool, 2004 Newport (also awarded Côr yr Wŷl (Choir of the Festival)), 2006 Swansea (also awarded Côr yr Wŷl), 2008 Cardiff and 2014 Llanelli.
Da iawn (well done) to musical director Mr Clive Phillips and his team at Bont.
October saw a return visit to West Wales by the Voskresenije Choir of St Petersburg.
This Russian a cappella ensemble of eight singers (two sopranos, two altos, countertenor, tenor, bass and basso profondo) with their conductor, Jurij Maruk, performed at St Mary’s Church in Kidwelly.
The vocal ensemble Resurrection -Voskresenije in Russian – was founded by Jurij Maruk in 1993.
The repertoire of the ensemble included Russian Sacred Music as well as folk music.
Let’s hope they pay a return visit to West Wales in 2019.
October also saw the ‘return home’ of John Owen-Jones, the Burry Port boy who has gone on to be an award-winning West End and Broadway star.
John performed at Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli, and the Lyric Theatre, Carmarthen.
He’s a class act and an inspiration to a future generation of singers. Here’s hoping 2019 brings him further success – but also allows time for another ‘home’ concert.
December’s highlights included the Gower College Carol Service held at S Catherine’s Church, Gorseinon.
It featured the college’s orchestra and jazz band and the student and staff choir.
There were also notable solo performances. For example, a soprano solo by Beth Evans, a flute solo by Nia Thomas and a cello solo by Alasdair Gunneburg of Carol of the Bells.
Festive highlights included exceptional concerts by Côr Meibion Llanelli and the Hywel Girls Choir, Hywel Boy Singers and Angelicus Celtis.
The talented Samuel Wyn-Morris was the star of Côr Meibion Llanelli’s Christmas concert.
Again, make a note of the name (if you haven’t already) as this boy is going to go far.
A member of LARS (Loud Applause Rising Stars), Samuel is 22 and a former head boy of Ysgol Y Strade
In 2017 Sam graduated from the prestigious Guildford School of Acting with a first class honours degree in musical theatre. Since then Sam has continued to perform and made his professional debut at The Old Vic at the beginning of 2018.
Sam, the first and founding member of LARS, hopes to continue working professionally in 2019 with the aim of making his West End debut.
In October, 2018, Sam, along with other members of LARS, was a representative of Wales at the Liberation Celebratory weekend in S’Hertogenbosch, Holland where he performed at the prestigious Liberation Concert, to great acclaim, and at the 53rd Welsh Division Memorial Service.
Apologies to all who didn’t make the random shortlist of 2018 highlights above; the reality is that we are blessed with exceptionally talented singers, choirs and musicians in West Wales and, if space allowed, I would mention everyone.
It’s timely to insert a reminder here to all concert organisers – please send news of your concert dates to the following email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
Advance notice of concerts helps other concert organisers avoid embarrassing clashes and helps readers to plan their concert-going calendars.
Looking forward to 2019, here are two key events –
- Ffwrnes Theatre in Llanelli always stages a hugely-popular St David’s Day concert. This year it will be held on Saturday, March 2. The concert will feature the world-famous Morriston Orpheus Choir, conducted by Joy Amman Davies, and Côr Lleisiau’r Cwm, under the baton of Llanelli’s Catrin Hughes. Sharing the spotlight will be two highly-talented young singers from the Loud Applause Rising Stars stable – mezzo soprano Nikkila Thomas, from Llanelli, and tenor Osian Clarke, from Tycroes.
- There’s early notification of performances of The Passion Of The Christ, to be performed on Good Friday, April 19, and Easter Saturday, April 20. The acclaimed voices of the Hywel Girls’ Choir and Hywel Boy Singers, Angelicus Celtis and friends will present The Passion of The Christ, a blend of varied choral and vocal works, blended with narration and theatre to be held in South Wales over Easter weekend 2019. This unique performance will present a dramatic retelling of the story of the life and crucifixion of Christ bringing together associated choir and vocal ensembles blending music and poetry from Bach, Barber, Jenkins, Mozart, Webber, Telemann, Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Browning, Emily Dickson, Langston Hughes and Mary Oliver to name but a few. The passion will include opportunities for solo singers, duet, trios, small group chorale and main choir and different roles associated with the life and crucifixion of Christ. Auditions for these singing opportunities will be held in in the Llanelli area during the weekend of January 19. Singing auditions for will be open to the general public, both young and adult voices (soprano, alto tenor, bass) and open to both choristers of the Hywel choir and singers beyond. If you are interested in learning more about the auditions for The Passion of the Christ, please register your interest by contacting Jeremy Williams at email@example.com
Robert Lloyd works as a media consultant – www.rlloydpr.co.uk
If you have any news about the choral scene in Llanelli, the please contact him on 07777 683637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org