The Treorchy Male Choir

The Treorchy Male ChoirThere’s nothing quite like music from home to stimulate the nostalgia and nationalist fervour of expats. It must have been nostalgia more than quality that did it for the enthusiastic Welsh nationals in the audience, and brought them to their feet, forgiving the tonal and rhythmic inaccuracies that peppered this concert by the Treorchy Male Choir in the Adelaide Festival Theatre on their first visit to Australia in ten years.

This choir has a fine reputation built on a 125 year history and a great deal of enthusiasm that one has come to expect from the singing men of Wales. And there were indeed some charming moments in this picnic basket of choral favourites, which began crisply with – appropriately - “With a Voice of Singing”. Then the hills and vales of Wales were captivatingly invoked by the romantic lushness of some songs from home, and the choir had the leek eaters eating out of their hands as it were, while Conductor Janice Ball, who sometimes looked as though she was finger painting, maintained control most of the time.

Accompanist Helen Roberts relished the opportunity to caress the Steinway, which she did with delicacy and aplomb, while several endings were quite magically enhanced by the entrance of the grand organ for the last climax, effectively and invisibly played by David Thomas. (If we could have seen as well as heard this fine instrument, the setting would have been much more interesting than the cavernous black that surrounded the choir.) He also walked through the fabulous J.S. Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor as a feature solo, and I think he was rather taken with this organ’s capacity for very big pedal sounds.

Undoubtedly the finest musician on the stage was guest soprano soloist Iona Jones. Lovely pure, light and clean notes soared out from her diminutive, unassuming frame as she deftly and with remarkable agility sang Mozart’s “Alleluia”. Her contributions both enchanted as solos, and served to anchor any wayward tendencies the boys behind her may have had to wander - sometimes excruciatingly- from their pitch. Dean Powell, the compere, showed his comedic skill and timing in a fine introduction and commentary, and also his musical talent in his solos and duet with baritone Ray Daniels.

The choral sound had great gusto at times; tip-toe sotto voce at others, when the choir lacked unity and became breathy and unbalanced. Often the melody line quite disappeared into the harmonies - where were the fabled 1st Tenors? This rather dampened what could have been a very appealing ABBA medley and an evocative group from Les Mis.

However, at other times the full throated choral sound that can only come from a male voice choir was nicely demonstrated in some pieces, but sometimes only in the last chord. So where was the power and the balls of these 50 hearty singers in the other parts of the concert?

It is noteworthy, however, that this choir performed for nigh on two hours (plus interval) without a note of a score in their hands. This in itself is a great achievement. Their strength returned at the end with a rousing rendition of Advance Australia Fair, followed by a moving Welsh national anthem: “Mae Hen Wlad Fynghadan” (Land of My Fathers). There couldn’t have been a better finish.


THE TREORCHY MALE CHOIR

Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Date: May 26 2009
Tickets: from $40
Bookings: BASS 131 246
Visit: www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au

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