Guernsey

October 2 - 4, 2015

Treorchy Male Choir's first visit to the Channel Island of Guernsey was the result of a long association between Musical Director Jeff Howard and Roy Sarre BEM, the Musical Director of the Festiva Choir. The multi-denominational Christian choir from Guernsey was celebrating its 30 th anniversary and Roy, along with his wife Maddie, planned the Treorchy's visit to the island as part of their year of festivities. The three-day venture was supported by Festiva's patron, Dame Mary Perkins, who along with her husband Doug, founded the international Specsavers optician chain more than 30 years ago. It was a unique privilege for the men of Treorchy to enjoy such an outstanding welcome from a genuinely lovely group of individuals.

Opening performance in GuernseyOpening performance in GuernseyOn Friday October 2 choristers, dressed in their new black polo shirts and grey trousers, boarded the double decker Ferris Coach to arrive at Bristol International Airport by 1pm. With the usual check-in and security procedures over with, many settled in the bar for brunch and a few drinks before they boarded the specially chartered Aurigny ATR 72-500 plane bound for Guernsey Airport. The aircraft only included the Treorchy “party” of choristers, accompanist Helen Roberts, conductor Jeff Howard and his wife Rachel. With an attentive pair of stewardesses on board and Captain Jenny Webster in the cockpit the propeller aircraft took off at 3.20pm and landed 45 minutes later on the beautiful island of Guernsey.

On arrival at Guernsey Airport the choristers were greeted by two rather small buses, which barely managed to carry the luggage and themselves together! Fortunately it was a relatively short journey to the beautiful harbour town of St Peter's Port, the island's capital and its majestic Castle Cornet. T his 800 year old castle stands at the mouth of the harbour and is much bigger than it first appears.

Choristers were treated to wonderful views of the harbour as dusk fell and walked through the ancient corridors to the Hatton Gallery, surrounded by a selection of art from the Museum's extensive collection. Located on the top floor of the Upper Barracks (or Married Quarters), choristers arrived through the Maritime Museum and up to the Hatton Gallery where they enjoyed views over the neighbouring islands.

It was here that a civic reception was held by Minister for Leisure and Culture Deputy Mike O'Hara and choristers were able to finally meet their hosts, Roy and Maddie Sarre. Following a few words of welcome from Mr O'Hara the Choir was delighted to hear the kind and gracious greetings of Dame Mary Perkins herself. Dame Mary, who has also enjoyed a long friendship with Jeff Howard, ensured there was the warmest of welcomes in Guernsey for the Treorchy men as she expressed her delight at finally meeting them all. Unfortunately her husband Doug was in Twickenham, which was a great shame as he is Llanelli-born! Many of the choristers remember meeting him at the Melbourne Arts Centre, Australia in 2009 when he came to a concert there. The Choir responded to these kind and sincere words of welcome with several performances. It was also noted that Roy and Maddie were celebrating their 49 th wedding anniversary and so the Choir performed “Let it Be Me” especially for them.

With the reception over the choristers boarded the coaches a second time and travelled the narrow country lanes which snake their way across the island. Guernsey is a truly beautiful place to visit, with his rolling landscape, perfect privet hedges and expensive homes. The traffic, which can only travel at around 25mph faces problems with narrow lanes, which means that driving on sections of the pavement are considered the norm!

Chairman David Bebb presented Honorary Lady Membership to Dame Mary PerkinsChairman David Bebb presented Honorary Lady Membership to Dame Mary PerkinsEventually the coaches reached the four-star accommodation for the weekend visit. St Pierre Hotel and Golf Resort in St Peters Port. Located in 35 acres of stunning grounds, it is the one of the most well equipped hotels in Guernsey for business events and conferences. The hotel also offers a variety of dining options, top spa treatments and one of only three golf courses on the island.

Choristers retired to their rooms to relax and change before congregating once again in the hotel lobby. Drinks were enjoyed on the terrace before choristers entered the ballroom where they were greeted by sixty choristers and their partners from the Festiva Choir. Festiva is Guernsey's popular and award winning Churches community choir with members drawn from churches throughout the island.

Dressed in blazer, greys and membership tie, the Treorchy men were invited to share tables with choristers from the host choir and enjoyed a splendid evening in their company. An extensive range of food was on offer in a buffet fashion and each table individually invited to partake of the delicious menu ranging from homemade seasonal soup, salad, pasta to poached salmon, saute chicken, sirloin and fillets to fish to very fine desserts!

Once the dinner was concluded the formalities of the night began. Roy Sarre addressed the audience and welcomed Treorchy Archivist Dean Powell to relate the history of the Welsh choir to their new found Festiva friends. Dean gave an abridged version of his popular lecture to the Guernsey residents who were clearly impressed by the incredible history of the world-famous Treorchy Male Choir. He was followed by Chairman David Bebb who expressed his gratitude, on behalf of the entire Choir, for the opportunity to visit Guernsey. In recognition of the tremendous effort involved, Honorary Membership of the Treorchy Male Choir was bestowed on Roy Sarre and Doug Perkins while Honorary Lady Membership was bestowed on Dame Mary Perkins and Maddie Sarre. They accepted the honour without question and kind words of thanks were expressed by all involved.

Jeff Howard led the two choirs in a combined performance of Cwm Rhondda before Festiva impressed the Welshmen with a beautiful rendition of the Guernsey anthem, Samie Charie. It brought a perfect evening to a close as the Treorchy choristers retired to the hotel bar to continue the celebrations.

On Saturday morning the choristers enjoyed a large breakfast in the ball room before embarking on a daytrip to visit other parts of the island. They boarded the two coaches once again and enjoyed a splendid trip across Guernsey, making an early-morning stop at the Little Chapel. A work of art and a labour of love, the Little Chapel is possibly the smallest chapel in the world. It was built by Brother Déodat who started work in March 1914. His plan was to create a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes in France. The Little Chapel is beautifully decorated with seashells, pebbles and colourful pieces of broken china and the College has an ongoing programme of repairs and improvements.

St James HallSt James HallThe tour continued with a potted history of the island, from its early days through to its Welsh invasion by Owain Lawgoch and to the Second World War and Nazi Occupation. The islanders commemorate the end of the conflict every year with a series of memorial concerts to remember the conclusion of one of the darkest periods in their history.

Further stops were made overlooking a wonderful Les Hanois lighthouse which rises from a reef on the south west side of the island. Choristers viewed one of the World War II heavy gun outposts,. The trip continued to The Imperial Hotel overlooking Rocquaine Bay in Torteval where a delicious lunch was provided in the restaurant, boasting views out to sea. Choristers spent a delightful few hours together.

At 6pm choristers, dressed in their new grey suits with black shirt and matching tie, travelled to St James Concert Hall for a performance in the Whittaker Hall. It was at a public meeting on 30 October 1815 that Admiral Sir James Saumarez, later Lord de Saumarez, conceived the idea of building St James. The church was to provide a place of worship for the British garrison in Guernsey, where services could be held in English. The building was completed in 1818.

After a full life, which included its use as the Elizabeth College chapel for many years, the building finally became redundant in 1970 and fell into partial decay. In 1981 The Friends of St James association was formed to achieve St James' restoration and then to administer the building as a concert and assembly hall. The States agreed to pay for this restoration in 1983 and the building was officially re-opened on 5 July 1985 by HRH the Duke of Kent.

Backstage at St James HallBackstage at St James HallRehearsals commenced and the Choir was officially introduced to soloist Jose Paine who is the daughter of Roy and Maddie Sarre. The beautiful auditorium was befitting as a location for a magnificent evening concert which was of the highest possible standard. Jeff Howard led his musical troops with a masterful display of conducting, ably assisted as always by Helen Roberts whose performance at the piano received huge acclaim. The audience's reaction was one of tremendous applause and laughter due in no small way to Dean Powell as MC who knew this was a night to remember!

The crowd enjoyed the entire fun-loving atmosphere of the evening without doubt, particularly the tongue-in-cheek reference to rival Jersey and the support for Australia against England in that evening's Rugby World Cup in Twickenham! Ray Daniels performed his role as baritone with his continual high standards and the Choir was delighted to share the stage with Jose Paine who impressed one and all.

As for the Choir itself? They're performance bordered on the magical at times! Rousing anthems like Bryn Myrddin, Cwm Rhondda and Builth dominated the first-half with beautiful performances of Y Darlyn, Myfanwy and especially Ar Lan Y Mor. Of course audience participation was also required for Calon Lan and Sosban Fach, and with so many Welsh people in the crowd, it was a delight to hear them signing along. The second half included What A Wonderful World, Can You Hear Me and the new Nat King Cole Medley. Roses of Picardy was well received, as was You'll Never Walk Alone featuring Jose Paine. The magnificent encore of Men of Harlech was welcomed with the most thrilling of responses.

Raising the roof at St James' HallRaising the roof at St James' HallWith the sound of rapturous applause in their ears, choristers left the stage assured they had given of their very best. With a feeling of deep satisfaction of a job well done, they retired to the green room where a second outburst of singing took place – this time of Advance Australia Fair in honour of the Australian win in the Rugby World Cup that very evening! The choristers returned to the St Pierre Resort for a traditional post-party celebration in the ballroom.

Sadly the final day of the visit soon arrived and on Sunday another delicious breakfast was enjoyed before the 1pm departure for Guernsey Airport. Roy and Maddie Sarre were present, accompanied by several of their friends to ensure a typical island farewell to their guests. Treorchy replied with a performance of three songs in the check-in desk area of the airport, much to the delight of staff and travellers! Soon enough they boarded another of the Aurigny aircraft, captained by Clive Elsemore and flew to Bristol some 40 minutes away. The Ferris Coach awaited their arrival and the journey home to the valleys commenced, interrupted with the usual hilarious “Bing Bong Awards” as provided by Daryl Stacey, naming all the silly mistakes and blunders made by choristers over the weekend!

It had been another memorable and thoroughly enjoyable weekend visit and choristers had certainly upheld the traditions of musical excellence of Treorchy Male Choir. The welcome and kindness shown them by the Festiva Choir and the residents of the island will remain constant in their memories of Guernsey. We will be back!

Concert List

October 2 - Castle Cornet
October 2 - St Pierre Hotel & Resort
October 3 - St James' Hall
October 4 - Guernsey Airport