Scotland

August 8 - August 12 2013

Treorchy Male Choir has been fortunate to have toured many countries throughout the world and whilst those journeys have taken them tens of thousands of miles, others have been a little closer to home but nonetheless just as enjoyable. It was with great excitement that the Choir undertook a tour of Scotland in 2013 thanks to Honorary Member Robert Harris, the Development Director for the Wales Wooden Spoon rugby charity.

GalashielsGalashielsOn Thursday August 8th the coach left Treherbert at 7.15am, meandering through the Rhondda Fawr before reaching the BBC Studios in Llandaff at 8.45am. With fifty three choristers on board, plus our accompanist Helen Roberts, the touring party headed north. With plenty of fun, chatter excitement and enjoyment on board, the bus journey seemed to fly as choristers looked forward to all that the weekend had in store. The driver, Chris, was a calm, humourous and incredibly helpful individual and obviously nothing was too much trouble for him. As the hours passed the choristers grew restless for a drink or two and by 1pm had reached a familiar town in Warrington. Memories of the many concerts given at the Parr Hall came flooding back as the bus made its way into the town centre and found a very convenient Wetherspoons pub called The Friar Penketh. With more than an hour to themselves choristers were suitably refreshed with drinks and food before continuing the long journey ahead.

The second half of the trip was filled with fun as choristers enjoyed a fifty-question quiz organised by Dennis Young. With everyone paying £1.00 each to participate, the teams of five battled it out for the top prize which was won by David Bebb's team with an impressive score. Following the quiz more entertainment was had with Roger Morse's magnetic bingo board. Again choristers digged deep into the pockets and paid for bingo tickets with plenty of “houseys!” called and prizes to be won. The journey literally flew and before long the travellers were enjoying the beautiful landscapes of the Lake District and crossing the border into Scotland. It was at 6pm, almost eleven hours after starting their journey, that the choristers reached the pretty borders town of Galashiels and reached their destination, the Jean Muir Student Village.

With only an hour to spare, the choristers gathered in the main foyer of the building dressed in a new piece of Choir attire, a lovely red touring polo shirt courtesy of Wooden Spoon themselves. On boarding the bus they took only a few minutes to travel through Galashiels and reach the Volunteer Hall. An official tour photograph was taken on the main street, in the shadow of the impressive clock tower, before entering the venue. Almost 300 men were sat for dinner in the Volunteer Hall, including a whole host of Scottish football legends including Finlay Calder, Johnny Gray and Jim Leishman who, along with Burma-born John Htet Khin, performed the duties of guest speakers during the evening.

The choristers were delighted to meet members of the Galashiels Pipe Band who, following the orders of Master of Ceremonies Morris Manson, led the Treorchy men into the banqueting hall where they were greeted with a rousing standing ovation from the other guests. On making their way to their tables, the choristers were treated to a delicious three course meal and free drinks, served by waiters at the table. Quite literally the choristers were treated as the main guests of honour at this special fundraising event for the Rowan Boland Memorial Trust which not only boasted some fine guest speakers, but also an auction in aid of the cause. It was a delight to be reunited with our old friend Rob Harris, the Wooden Spoon director and good friend who had made this tour a reality.

Following dinner Dr Haydn James led his musical troops, accompanied by Helen Roberts on the piano, through a short group of songs including “Men of Harlech”, “Let It Be Me”, “Speed Your Journey” and “Llef”. As the drinks continued to flow, further speakers took to the stage to entertain, before the Choir was again invited to perform, giving two renditions of “Gwahoddiad” and “Delilah” - will full audience participation! As the midnight hour approached the majority of the choristers headed back to their accommodation, while other sampled the local hospitality in the nearby Wetherspoons pub. With a near-perfect day coming to an end, all was well until choristers overloaded the lift and caused it to malfunction, leaving some very weary singers climb four flights of stairs before reaching a peaceful slumber.

Gavin Hastings meeting the choristers at MurrayfieldGavin Hastings meeting the choristers at MurrayfieldAt 9am on Friday August 9th the choristers enjoyed a very heart breakfast in the dining room of the Jean Muir Hall. An absolutely delicious spread of food was on offer and filled to the brim with cooked breakfast, cereal and drinks, the singers left Galashiels at 10.30am on an hour-long journey to the capital city of Edinburgh. The beautiful architecture and outstanding natural beauty of Edinburgh never fails to impressive first-timers or frequent visitors to the area and as the bus drove through the city under the shadow of the breathtaking castle, choristers enjoyed the opportunity to view the many landmarks once more. Edinburgh was a hive of activity as literally tens of thousands of people were packing the already bus streets to enjoy the annual Fringe Festival. The coach crawled through the heavy traffic along Princes's street before crossing the Waverley Bridge and snaking its way uphill to the Royal Mile.

On reaching the Royal Mile choristers alighted the coach and walked through the crowds of festival-goers before finding an empty street corner. It was here the unofficially the Treorchy Male Choir performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the very first time! Although only two songs were performed before Dr James was reminded that the Choir was not registered to sing (!), crowds of people gathered to hear “Men of Harlech” and “Gwahoddiad”. With the sound of enthusiastic cheers and applause ringing in the ears, the choristers split into groups and spent the remainder of the day exploring Edinburgh. Many visited the Castle, Scott Memorial or the many hostelries along Rose and George Street. Others basked in the incredible atmosphere along the Royal Mile where the street-performers welcomed thousands of spectators. On walking through this “madding crowd” of happy visitors and residents alike, the choristers couldn't fail but be impressed by the annual festivities.

At 5pm the Choir boarded the coach outside Waverley Station and made its way through the traffic to Murrayfield Rugby Stadium, the home of the international Scottish Rugby Team. As always the warmest of welcomes was afforded to the singers by Rob Harris and his colleague Charlie Bryden, the Chairman of the Scottish National Committee of Wooden Spoon. With time to change and relax in their surroundings, the Treorchy men were afforded a tour of the Murrayfield Stadium, the 67,000-seater stadium originally built in 1925 but rebuilt less than twenty years ago. It was while walking from the stands to the pitch that choristers were greeted by Scottish Rugby International Gavin Hastings who was full of fun and banter with his rugby rivals.

The evening concert was held in the surroundings of the Murrayfield Stadium Presidents Suite where around 150 Wooden Spoon members and supporters gathered for the performance. With a commencement of 7.30pm, the Choir was delighted to see Ros Evans our gifted soprano soloist arrive from Wales in time for the performance. Despite being a difficult room to perform in, and although the choristers were still somewhat fatigued following the journey, an evening of entertainment and full day in Edinburgh, the concert was a total success. Dr Haydn James inspired the choristers to perform a first-class concert for a delighted audience. The concert began with a presentation by Gavin Hastings of the work undertaken by Wooden Spoon in Scotland. This set the scene for the purpose of the fundraising concert and as the Choir launched into a performance of “Men of Harlech” which roused the audience from the outset. This evening Helen Roberts accompanied the Choir beautifully, despite playing on an electrical piano. Dean Powell performed his duties as Master of Ceremonies with typical professionalism and together with baritone soloist Ray Daniels the Treorchy “outfit” was a first-class entity.

Volunteer Hall, GalashielsVolunteer Hall, GalashielsSome of the highlights of the evening included the Welsh hymns of “Llef”, “Gwahoddiad” and the religious item “Y Darlun”, which was arranged by Jeffrey Howard who will shortly become the new Conductor of the Treorchy Male Choir. The programme included a rousing performance of “Unwaith Eto'n Nghymru Annwyl”, along with “Anthem from Chess”, “This is the Moment”, “You Raise Me Up” and “Let It Be Me” to add contemporary music to the evening. However it was the excellent performance, which included Ros Evans as soloist, of “Loch Lomond” that certainly roused the many patriotic Scots in the room! It was certainly a memorable night for the Musical Director who is no stranger to rugby stadiums around the world.

Having led the choirs at the Welsh home internationals in the Millennium Stadium on a hundred occasions and also four British Lions Tours, he was delighted to lift the baton at Murrafield. It was also an evening where Ros Evans, who possess not only a beautiful voice but a sparkling personality, won the hearts of audience and Choir alike. With plenty of humour the entire performance was a joy from start to finish. The concert concluded with the resurrected medley from Les Miserables which included three Choir songs and two solo items by Ray and Dean. The conclusion of this group of items brought the audience to its feet with a thunderous ovation.

Charlie Bryden offered his vote of thanks to all who had made the evening possible before being surprised by the address made by Treorchy Chairman David Bebb who presented him with a suitably inscribed plaque to commemorate the concert. To conclude the evening the Choir sang “Morte Christe”, before leaving the stage to a second standing ovation from the delighted audience, that also included rugby favourite Scott Andrews. On leaving Murrayfield Stadium the choristers relaxed on the hour-long journey back to Galashiels where many of them visited the Wetherspoons pub for further liquid refreshment before bedtime.

An early rise on Saturday August 10th for another hearty breakfast – including haggis – in the dining room at the Jean Muir Student Village. With typical good humour, choristers chatted the time away, making plans for the day ahead. A group of choristers decided to travel to Peebles to meet up with old friends of Reg Stephens. Others spent their day wandering the streets of Galashiels, seeing the local sights, picking up gifts or enjoying some liquid refreshment and food in the Wetherspoons on the high street. At 2.30pm Chris brought the coach into the town and the majority saw a local rugby game while other returned to their accommodation for a relaxing few hours and prepare for the evening ahead.

Royal Mile, EdinburghRoyal Mile, EdinburghAt 5.45pm the choristers boarded the coach once more. The only missing member was Joe Harris who had managed to fall fast asleep in his room and followed the coach by taxi! The venue for the evening performance was the Volunteer Hall where the Choir had enjoyed dinner on the first night of the tour. The hall had been totally transformed with full tiered seating for the 500 members of the audience. Following a brief rehearsal the choristers enjoyed the opportunity of listening to Langlee Community Choir who opened the concert so brilliantly. With a mixture of opera, folk and contemporary music, they certainly set the scene well for the performances to come. With a rousing ovation they left the stage after performing eight items and with an introduction by Robert Harris, the Treorchy men marched forth!

The evening concert in Galashiels can only be described in superlatives – not only for the performance of the Choir and soloists, but particularly the reaction of the audience itself which can only be called “breathtaking”. From the very outset their enthusiastic applause and cheers put the choristers in a bright, exciteable mood which was reflected in their performances for sure. Dr Haydn James led the evening with his typical enthusiasm while Helen brought the piano “alive” with her gifted technique. Soloist Ray Daniels and Dean Powell, who also performed his duties as Master of Ceremonies, won tremendous admiration from the many hundreds present. However, it was Ros Evans who made the greatest impact of all with her vivacious character, fun-loving approach and absolutely beautiful voice. She was quite honestly, superb.

From the opening number of “Men of Harlech” through to the “Les Miserables” medley, the Choir truly shone with some excellent, rousing renditions which left the audience spellbound. Over all the concert was filled with excellent singing and plenty of humour. This atmosphere pervaded throughout the evening which included such highlights as “This is the Moment”, “Anthem from Chess”, “You Raise Me Up”, “Nessun Dorma” and “Llef”. As the evening progressed the intensity of the audience's admiration for the Choir grew and on reaching the climax of “Do You Hear The People Sing” they were an enthusiastic crowd beyond compare! An encore was clearly required and with huge appreciation from the audience, the Choir and Ros broke into “Loch Lomond”. One can only imagine the reaction! With plenty of audience participation, which added to the remarkable atmosphere of the evening, the concert concluded with “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” and “Flower of Scotland”, leaving the choristers to march off stage with the sound of applause ringing in their ears.

Final concert, GalashielsFinal concert, GalashielsTonight's concert was held in aid of Wooden Spoon and the Rowan Boland Memorial Trust. The parents of young Rowan, who has passed away, were there to greet the choristers in a reception following the performance. It was an ideal opportunity for Chairman David Bebb to make a presentation to Wooden Spoon representative Bill Turner and pay a fitting tribute to Robert Harris for all of his excellent work. In typical Treorchy fashion, choristers burst into song for more than an hour before retiring to the local Auld Mill Inn to continue their “unofficial” concert performance! Choristers were on top form all night long and continued to enjoy the Galashiels hospitality until the “wee small hours” - celebrating a memorable evening indeed.

On Sunday August 1 th , following such a fun-filled evening together, a number of weary looking choristers appeared in the breakfast room from 8.30am. For the next hour more and more members tentatively appeared, enjoying another hearty meal and some fresh air before the coach departed the college at 12noon. An hour was spent travelling through some beautiful Scottish and English countryside as the Choir crossed the border once more. The breathtaking scenery of salmon-filled rivers snaking their way through lush green landscape was a joy to behold on the sunniest of days. At 1.45pm the Choir arrived in the famous walled town of Berwick upon Tweed. This traditional market town and also has some notable architectural features, in particular its medieval town walls, its Elizabethan ramparts and Britain's earliest barracks buildings. Choristers walked the main shopping street towards the river, before branching off in the direction of the Maltings Theatre. This delightful old building was home to a heavily ornate Victorian auditorium of gold frescos, red velvet curtains and cushions and a large chandelier dominating the ceiling. Following a short (and rather difficult) rehearsal, choristers prepared for the afternoon concert before 230 people.

Ros EvansRos EvansThe concert proved another success with a very appreciative audience who applauded loudly and enthusiastically. Unfortunately the rehearsal had been difficult with many voices tired after the fun of the night before. One of those victims was Dean Powell himself who carried out the duties of Master of Ceremonies, but was unable to sing his solo item in the “Les Miserables” medley. Despite that initial shortcoming it did nothing to effect the concert which once again saw Ros Evans shine with her solo items and the performances of Dr Haydn. Helen and Ray ensure an excellent concert in all. The Choir certainly gave of their best on stage with some memorable performances of “Men of Harlech”, “Gwahoddiad” and “Let It Be Me”. Although the atmosphere and response from the audience was clearly not as thrilling as Galashiels, it was still a very enjoyable final concert on this thoroughly successful tour of Scotland.

Following the performance the choristers walked the main street to the coach, stopping for fish and chips in a local shop along the way. The coach returned them to their accommodation, with half an hour to spare for showering and changing. Then it was back on the bus again and the members travelled to the Galashiels Cricket Club where they enjoyed the most unforgettable of welcomes. The Galashiels Drum and Pipe Band were there to greet them and on instruction led the Choir up the long path to the cricket club where scores of local residents awaiting their arrival with applause and loud cheers. The choristers were indeed treated like superstars in this lovely town and were assured that they had certainly made a positive impact on “Gala”. The evening was a tremendous success.

The band remained in the small, but comfortable club house, for the next few hours, performing a selection of Welsh items which the Choir was happy to sing along to. As the evening drew on the choristers not only performed a whole host of songs as a group, but the faithful afterglow soloists were called upon. One by one they made for an excellent evening's entertainment with the likes of Roger Morse, Phil Edmunds, Dennis Young, Alun Davies, Ernald Brookes, Joe Harris, Keith Owens, Dean Powell, Dai Bebb, Islwyn Morgan, Reg Stephens, Stuart Smith and Helen Roberts shine! It was well passed midnight when the last song was performed and eventually the choristers returned to the coach and their accommodation for a final night's sleep.

On the morning of Monday August 12th it was time to enjoy a final breakfast in the Jean Muir Campus and at 10am board the coach destined for Wales. Around ten choristers travelled home by plane, whilst the “coachers” had a fun-filled return visit, complete with more bingo, quizzes and general fun and frolics reminiscing about such a fantastic few days in the highlands. With a lunch break at Warrington once more the ten-hour journey continued with an interruption from “Captain Clec” Daryl Stacey who read this tour's awards for stupidity! With plenty of hilarity and good humour, the journey continued through England to Wales and their hometown, finally reaching Treorchy at 9pm. A wonderful tour of Scotland that will certainly live long in the memory!

Concert List

Aug 8 Volunteer Hall, Galashiels

Aug 9 Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Aug 9 President's Suite, Murrayfield

Aug 10 Volunteer Hall, Galashiels

Aug 11 Maltings Theatre, Berwick on Tweed