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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

The men behind the voices

As Cardiff youngsters prepare for this year’s Texaco Young Musician of Wales final in two weeks, Côr Meibion De Cymru (COR) – the South Wales Male Voice Choir – are practicing for their role in the event. Amy Willis joined them at a practice session to meet some of the men behind the voices.

The 126 members of the South Wales Male Voice Choir will be performing a 15-minute recital at the Texaco Young Musician of Wales final as judges decide on this year’s winner. Songs will include Divine Brahna, Men of Harlick and a tear-jerking rendition of Nessun Dorma specially adapted for a full choir performance.

South Wales Males Voice Choir

South Wales Males Voice Choir

This is not the choir’s only role in the event. For the last 20 years, they have also played a major organisational part in arranging regional rounds and promoting the event in Welsh schools.

Members of the South Wales Male Voice Choir come from all over Wales. They practice weekly in five separate groups and come together as a full choir every fourth Sunday. The Prince of Wales is a Patron and Rhodri Morgan also supports the choir.

The 40-member Cardiff branch of the choir, practice in Llandaff Parish Hall.

The men, largely retired colliers and steel workers, are a bustle of laughs and chatter.

Some have travelled across the Severn Bridge from Bristol just for the two-hour rehearsal, but most live locally.

The conductor, Alasdair Cowie-Fraser, 22, from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Dance, signals for the piano to start and the men instinctively fall silent and rise from their seats.

Eyes forward, their voices boom the words of their first song, Men of Harlick- a traditional Welsh military song. The blend of Male voice tenors, baritones and bassists creates an enchanting and powerful sound. The men’s passion for music clearly shows through.

Mr Cowie-Fraser said: “What amazes me is the high standard of music they produce despite most of them not having musical backgrounds.

“Singing in the choir is very demanding and the men have a real commitment.

“From a personal perspective, I really enjoy the rehearsals. It is more than a weekend job. The individual characters of the choir make it very interesting.”
Cliff Smith, 70, a retired lecturer in electronic engineering, has been singing with the choir for 25 years. He has sung in the Royal Opera house twice, travelled all the way to Canada and around Europe with the choir.

“I really love singing with the choir. We get to sing in so many different places around the world and it is great fun,” he said.

The South Wales Male Voice Choir have raised money for various charities over the years. On their tour to Canada in October last year, they raised £8,155 for the Willow Foundation, a charity that arranges special days out for severely ill youngsters.

Tickets for the Young Musician of Wales final at 7pm on March 7 are available from St David’s Hall for £10-£12 each. To purchase call 0292 087 8444. For further details: http://www.texaco.co.uk/youngmusician.

Finalists for 2009 include Steffan Ciccotti playing the marimba, Anne Denholm on the harp, Steffan Morris on the cello, Ben Griffiths on the harp, and David Shaw on the violin. The competition will be hosted by Gethin Jones.

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Filed under: Features, Portfolio

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