Return trip to Cornwall

551748_10150921851953622_946004477_nI always look forward to each and every one of our performances, no matter how large or small. The next one is no exception! Today we will be making a return trip to Cornwall to take part in the bi-annual International Male Voice Choir Festival.

Check out their Facebook page and this video introducing what it’s all about!
At around 2:00 minutes you can catch SWGMC in their pink tie splendour.

This will be our second visit to this amazing event and I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the last time we were there.

In 2013 we decided to take the plunge and get involved in what was to be our first male voice choir festival AND singing competition. Needless to say the pressure was on a little bit, but it didn’t curb our enthusiasm at all; in fact, the organisers were very excited about the fact that we were to be their first openly gay male voice choir!

As a late entry into the event we had limited time to prepare, but in true SWGMC fashion we pulled out all the stops and got cracking with some challenging music choices along with a few of our less serious pieces (in particular the Star Wars song based on popular movie themes by John Williams – sung on May the 4th – accompanied on stage by our very own Wookie – the force really was with us!).

947110_10151580041379329_1398164076_nOne great part about the festival is the opportunity to sing at some fairly iconic Cornwall venues. My particular favourite was the amazing Eden Project where we sang to a massed crowd in one of the domes; our voices filled that huge space and seemed to pull in a large crowd of people who thoroughly enjoyed our performance! It was also a brilliant opportunity for us to bond as a choir. It was one of the first real opportunities for us to do so as a group as it was the first time we had spent a whole weekend together! We had a really fun time and probably way too many post performance drinks back at the hotel!

It was also a great opportunity to mingle with other male voice choirs, one of which was staying at the same hotel as us. (Hopefully we didn’t keep them awake too much with our late night singing in the hotel bar!). They were very keen to talk to us about our wide selection of music choices and it was very touching when one of them suggested that we were ‘the future of male voice singing’ (*blush*).

As for the singing competition… well I won’t dwell on it, but needless to say it was an interesting experience and gave us lots of food for thought in terms of our performance and cohesion as a singing group. And of course, I couldn’t let it go without mentioning Tony Bevan’s spectacular debut in the choir and equally spectacular entrance onto the competition stage with a virtual triple salco over one of the floor speakers! (sorry Tony, couldn’t resist).

All in all, our last trip to Cornwall was a resounding success on so many levels. It was above all a fantastic bonding opportunity for us all, away from the rehearsal zone we usually find ourselves in. As we make the final preparations on our coach journey down for the May Bank Holiday this year I’m hoping we have a similar, if not better, experience and I’m sure a future blog will fill you in on all the details!

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Our Halloween Spook-tacular

Halloween NickSo the dust has finally settled on what I must admit was one of our best concerts yet! Halloween’s ‘A Nightmare on Keppoch Street’ may have come and gone, but the warm fuzzy afterglow from an amazing night is still gently burning on…

What can I say really to describe how it all went? Well, this has to be one of the most enthusiastically prepared concerts we’ve had in a long time. We had great fun setting up the stage and carving some marvellous pumpkins (even if I do say so myself). Halloween Pumpkins
The countdown to the start of the night was a mass of ghastly preparations and lashings of fake cobweb and we were very excited by all the tweeting and support, especially from Stonewall Cymru, our charity for the year who we were raising funds for on the night.

We had the most amazing audience who completely engaged with the night and the sounds of our amazing orchestra as soon as we took to the stage. We were even treated to an array of be-costumed supporters dressed as spooks, ghouls and… dare I say it…clowns (*shiver*).

Halloween ClownsThe music shocked, surprised and delighted the audiences – the gasps and shrieks in ‘Hearse Song’ were especially funny to listen to – and we thoroughly enjoyed treating them to our spooky repertoire.

Halloween on Stage

The Committee and myself were very proud of all the boys who really got into the ‘spirit’ of the concert, working so hard to produce a thoroughly enjoyable evening for all. We were also honoured of course to be joined by our ‘sister’ choir, the Songbirds, who joined the guys for a couple of songs and entertained the audience with a few pieces in their inimitable style. I’m glad we finally got to sing together and I really look forward to doing so again in the not so distant future.

I often find the period immediately following a performance a very odd time as we suddenly find ourselves with an abundance of free time after the intensity of rehearsals in the run up to a show. However, things haven’t quite ground to a halt for us just yet as the festive season is rapidly approaching (I really must start thinking about starting my Christmas shopping (*double shiver!*)). Before a couple of Christmas-related appearances in early December (keep an eye on our events pages for more on these in the coming weeks) we will be marking the annual World Aids Day commemoration with a performance at the Kings Bar on Churchill Way on Sunday November 30th, and we’d love to see you all there.
Halloween - Xmas Advert

Before I finish I’d just like to extend my thanks to a few people for making the concert the amazing event it turned out to be. I am constantly impressed and humbled by the time and effort a lot of people put into making our shows so entertaining and professional. Firstly our music team, who arrange a large amount of the music we sing and help us and the orchestra to achieve our best performances on the night. Also our creative team, who help to stage the performance and organise all the publicity and design elements that go into our shows. And finally, the Committee who help ensure all the myriad bits and pieces fit together….no mean feat I can assure you! To all of you, I thank you!

We’d also like to say a special thanks to Gordon and all the staff at the Kings for the fabulous afterparty and the great support they continue to show us.

Right – onwards and upwards – 2015 looks to be another exciting year for us – more on that to follow I’m sure!

SWGMC First Official Blog

Nick McNeill - 2014/15 Chair of SWGMC
Nick McNeil – 2014/15 Chair of SWGMC

2014 – the story so far…

Hi there, I’m Nick McNeill and I’m the current Chairman of the South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus. I’d like to welcome you to our first official Chorus blog, a new feature of our renewed website, which I hope you will enjoy and come back to on a regular basis.

Since this is our first blog I thought it would be a good idea to tell you a bit about who we are and what we’ve been up to so far this year.

SWGMC formed in 2008 and has rapidly grown, both in membership and support. We’ve entertained a huge number of people in all sorts of places across south Wales (and beyond!). We ended 2013, our fifth anniversary year, on a bit of a high after celebrating that particular milestone, and 2014 has already offered us a new set of challenges and exciting experiences.

5th Anniversary - Rehearsal
5th Anniversary Concert at RWCMD – A final rehearsal on the big day – Oct 5th 2013

We kicked off with preparations for our May concert, Brief Encounters, which let us loose on our more emotional side as we mapped the development and demise of a relationship through music. We challenged ourselves and set the bar high with the choice of music, including a piece written especially for us by our composer friend Gareth Churchill. We were also honoured to welcome to Cardiff Scottish singer Terry Neason, who entertained the audience with her mix of music and poetry.

An after performance get together - Various Voices Dublin June 2014
An after performance get together
– Various Voices Dublin June 2014

Moving onto June, a delegation from the Chorus headed for Dublin and the amazing Various Voices LGBT choral festival. A long weekend ensued filled with stunning music, an array of LGBT people from across the globe (gotta love those crazy German choirs!), a little bit (!) of partying and the fantastic hospitality of our Irish hosts. We are most definitely preparing for the next festival which is scheduled to take place in Munich in 2018.

The summer is usually a time to rest and recuperate, but the Chorus has been as busy as ever! We’ve sung at a couple of weddings (we’re available for bookings if you’re interested!) and we supported our good friends the Pink Singers at the illustrious Hackney Empire for their British themed concert, Notes from a Small Island, where we treated the audience to a few of our Welsh favourites. We’ve also been busily preparing for this year’s Pride event in Cardiff (more of that in our next Blog).

Pink Singers Hackney Empire Concert - July 2014
Pink Singers Hackney Empire Concert – July 2014

As a community choir, SWGMC is proud to do our bit to support local charities. Last year we were privileged to support the Forget Me Nots, a choir for people with dementia and their carers. This year we have come a little closer to ‘home’ as we are partnered with Stonewall Cymru who do amazing work to promote LGBT issues across Wales and beyond. We look forward to working with them at Pride and onwards through the year!

So that’s the first part of 2014 over, but we’re far from done! Our next big venture is our Halloween themed concert on 31st October which we’re all very excited about. Put the date in your diary and we hope to see you for an evening of spooky antics at the Gate Arts Centre in Roath!

Bye for now!