Music has always been (and still is) a big part of my life and yes, I have a soft spot for acappella music. (If you’re thinking barbershop music and Comedian Harmonists now, try again. Or even better, take a look on youtube. Acappella music has come a long way!) Anyway, it all started with learning to play the flute (name one and I’ve probably played it) as well as singing in many different choirs growing up, from school, church and classical ensembles to taking singing lessons and being a founding member of an acappella ensemble. I always enjoyed singing in a group of like-minded people. However, especially in the church choirs we were always struggling to find basses and especially tenors. Some boys or men thought they didn’t have any talent, some had more enthusiasm than talent but most just couldn’t be asked, thinking singing was something for sissies. But we never gave up searching for those missing voices. Well, I finally found them. They’re hiding here in Wales.
Wales has a strong link with music, traditionally being referred to as “the land of song”, and has a history of music being used as a form of communication. Since the 12th century, Welsh bards and musicians have participated in eisteddfodau, musical and poetical contests, that are still being held today.
I remember the first time I witnessed the live performance of a Welsh male choir, or the Fron Male Voice Choir to be more specific. I found myself at a Christmas carol concert in aid of a local hospice and had been promised some mulled wine, my first ever mince pies and various music performances. The evening hadn’t started too well though. I was seated next to a local prominent person everybody knew but me; I didn’t know (almost) any of the Christmas carols, so although we were supplied with the text for the carols we didn’t get the music and I was left mumbling and humming to the songs – remember, sitting next to a local ‘celebrity’, he must have thought I’m a bit daft; and I discovered that I’m not to keen on harp music, at least not on its own.
And then the Fron Male Voice Choir took centre stage and I was blown away. Can they sing! The sheer volume and power was amazing and there was nothing sissy about it. I was hooked. All the voices we had been looking for all those years back home where here in one place. If we’d only known. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to see and hear performances of various male choirs and even hear them sing the national anthem of Wales “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (“Old Land of My Fathers”). OK, so it made me feel like I was back at that Christmas carol evening again. Almost everyone in the audience was joining in but I had no idea of the lyrics or the music and so was left standing slightly embarrassed amongst them, getting a translation of the lyrics afterwards. But listening to it all even made my heart swell with pride and I felt fortunate to call this country ‘home’.