It was first mooted early on in 2017 that the Harrow Apollo Male Choir should consider a long weekend tour to Llandudno. The main purpose of which was to enter the North Wales Choral Festival in the male voice choir category.
A consensus amongst the members of HAMC was very positive but it needed firm commitment from the choristers well in advance of the event.
Thanks to the energy and personal commitment of the HAMC Tour Manager, Denis Argent and his well-known “carrot and stick” methods of cajoling “laggardly” choristers, he was able to make an early booking. Denis managed every aspect of the tour, including liaison with the festival organisers, the venue management at Venue Cymru, (owned by Conwy council) and all the accommodation and travel arrangements – no mean feat.
Before we knew it, the departure date was upon us and on Friday the 3rd November we left Harrow Arts Centre, the choir’s rehearsal venue and the coach pick-up point, and with only a slight delay and an initial deviation back to the coach depot for a Welsh sat-nav, we were heading up the M1 motorway. It can’t be denied that the coach journey proved to be long and arduous and on arrival at our destination there was an audible sigh of relief from everyone. Such are the perils of Friday motorway travel but as the saying goes “there is no gain without pain!”
We stayed at the Llandudno Bay Hotel, which was just a few blocks from the Venue Cymru, a short walk for all who attended, thus saving on additional local transport costs and all the inconvenience that entails. Serendipitously, we met up with old friends from City of Chester MVC who were staying at the same hotel. We joined them for a shared 70th Anniversary event in Chester cathedral in 2011. (Read more.)
Llandudno Bay is quite spectacular with a famously long promenade stretching at least a couple of miles around the bay. Some of the hardier members of our party walked to the end after supper on the first night, returning like drowned rats.
At either end of the bay there are two rocky limestone headlands rising out of the sea. To the west lays the Great Orme, rising 207 metres to the summit (the name is of Viking origin meaning the sea monster) and to the east is a smaller headland, the Little Orme, none the less beautiful or interesting, despite its lack of grandeur. Although a wet, wintry November day had arrived on Saturday, the bay offered a great deal for those wanting to be energised by the elements, relax their minds and be inspired to sing their hearts out at the rapidly approaching competition. Soon after breakfast the male voice choir category was due to commence, the first event of the day at the Festival.
Read more about the North Wales Choral Competition.
It was lunchtime when we emerged from Venue Cymru and the rest of the afternoon was our own to do with as we pleased until dinner. There was certainly a festival atmosphere around the bay with coaches disgorging groups of uniformed choirs of all persuasions. A chance encounter with Welwyn Harmony Chorus in the town, might lead to a joint concert, nearer home, sometime in the future.
An early dinner to enable all the hotel guests to watch the spectacular Firework display over the bay at 6.30pm. The rain held off until the display ended but arrived in time for our walk back to Venue Cymru for the evening concert.
Sunday was a “free day” and everyone went their separate ways after breakfast. A Pop up shop was set up by our enterprising treasurer and his wife to raise funds for the choir by selling the re-purposed Christmas cards they donated last year back to them. Over £100 was raised. Some who went up the Great Orme were rewarded with a sight of the famous but elusive goats. Another abandoned his wife at the summit, while he took the tram down. This earned him the L’Enfant Terrible award, presented on the coach during the journey home. The person who left their uniform at home and had to send the Music Director on a detour round North West London to fetch it, got off lightly. Barney, an honorary four-legged chorister for the weekend, was awarded Best Behaved Tourist and earned some doggy treats, biscuits and the like.
In the evening, a presentation of a cheque for £585 was made to representatives of the Llandudno Youth Theatre. This money was donated by the tourists in lieu of fines, which had not been levied on this tour. This event provided another excuse for some singing, if an excuse were needed with an a Capella rendition of We Hear The People Sing. An excellent way to round off the tour before departure, after breakfast the next day. Thankfully, with an upgraded coach, the journey home was far more pleasant and much less eventful than the outward one.
Well done to the choir and well done to Denis, a great tour.
See our gallery of photographs from the tour.
Thanks to Mike Gibson for the major contributions to this article.