The London Welsh Millennium Festival of Male Choirs

“This festival held in London’s Royal Albert Hall was a very special concert celebrating the truly international flavor of choral singing.

Seventeen choirs, one thousand voices, from the far flung corners of the globe graced the stage of that proud and historic venue; joining a large body of Welsh singers were choristers from Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, South Africa, and the USA. With a mix of accompaniment from piano, synthesizer, the hall’s mighty organ, and the Band of the Welsh Guards, the choice of music was varied and exciting and included many old favourites as well as new arrangements. The concert was recorded by the BBC and some of the pieces were included in a BBC television special – Songs of Praise”.

Haydn James, Director

London Welsh Male Voice Choir

 

In the early Spring of 1999, the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir received an invitation from Haydn James to participate in a proposed Millennium Concert to be held on October 28, 2000 at Royal Albert Hall. It was to be a concert of a thousand men to welcome the new thousand year millennium that would be arriving on January 1, 2001. The invitation mentioned that if our choir accepted, we would receive that planned repertoire of 29 pieces and they would have to be fully memorized for the concert. After some discussions among the members, the VWMC enthusiastically accepted and spent the next 18 months learning and putting to memory this large new repertoire.

Around this wonderful opportunity to sing in one of the great concert halls in the world, the choir planned a major tour that would take us through much of England from the Lakes District through the Midlands and North Wales and. On the final leg of the tour, we arrived in London to prepare and rehearse for this concert. What an adventure and experience this turned out to be. Our group had its first rehearsal on Thursday evening but the group was so big that we had to split into two different choirs to find rehearsal space that could accommodate such large numbers of singers. On the afternoon of the big concert, we had a full rehearsal and sound checks with the band and soloists in Royal Albert Hall.

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It is hard to describe the range of emotions that I had that evening on stage in Royal Albert Hall… the experience of singing with a thousand other singers! The great acoustics of this hall created an experience that was exhilarating. The sound of the wonderful music gave me a profound feeling of joy. When the mighty organ in the hall was accompanying some of the numbers, it was not just an emotional experience but a physical experience. When we sang “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah”, I can remember feeling the vibrations of the deep bass notes of the pipe organ reverberating in my body. At the end of the concert when the audience of about 6000 people joined in singing “Cwm Rhondda” and the Welsh national anthem, it was awe inspiring to hear such a marvellous sound of over 7000 voices in the concert hall.

I remember this evening as one of the highlights of my life and my 37 years as a member of the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir. From this event, we not only had a wonderful musical experience but we made many new friends and connections with other choirs who we later shared concerts with here in Vancouver; or on other later tours in the years that followed. That Saturday evening in London is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. It is with great pride I can say that I have sung in Royal Albert Hall – not many people get that chance in life!

Al Dahlo

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