It had been decided that HAMC would go on tour to Llandudno in November 2017 with the express purpose of competing in the Male Voice Competition of the North Wales Choral Festival, taking place from 4th – 6th November. Music Director, David Heasman, thought that the experience would be good for each individual chorister and for the whole choir. It had been some 20 years since the choir had entered a competition so there are not many current members who have experienced the rigors of competing.

The Male Voice Competition was scheduled for 10 am on Saturday 4th November at Venue Cymru. just a short walk from out hotel. This is one of many competitive choral events taking place over the three-day, annual North Wales Choral Festival (NWCF) which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2017. Over the years, the festival’s popularity has grown considerably, attracting entrants from across the UK and overseas. The festival accommodates all varieties of choral singing styles, mixed choruses, a Capella, children’s choirs, ladies’ choirs and, of course, male voice choirs. The latter having established itself as a strong musical tradition in Wales, arising predominately out of the mining industry.

The competition was compered by a very funny, stand-up comedian, Dilwyn Morgan, who spoke with a wonderful rich Welsh baritone voice and a dry sense of humour. His popularity with the NWCF is such that he is booked from year to year by the festival organisers, so he must be doing something right! The banter and “dead pan” anecdotes and jokes added a great deal to the entertainment and did much to alleviate any pre-performance nerves of the competing choirs.

The adjudicators, David King, Vivien Pike and Robert Elliott, were introduced by Dilwyn Morgan to the assembled gathering. They took time to explain the criteria for judging the various elements of the singing competition, then wished each competing choir good luck. Dilwyn Morgan took no time in introducing the first choir, Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir, who had to prepare itself and get ready to go on stage. This process was handled by appointed stewards, who made a fine job of it, directing choristers, when called, to an anteroom adjacent to the stage wings. This enabled each choir to leave their spectator seats in the auditorium and ready themselves for staging, in an orderly and choreographed manner. This is something that HAMC works hard on, as appearance is part of the choir’s heritage and is regarded as an important aspect of choral singing.

The competing choirs, in order of appearance, were:

  • Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir
  • Cor Meibion Colwyn
  • Harrow Apollo Male Choir
  • Peterborough Male Voice Choir
  • Shrewsbury Male Voice Choir
  • The City of Chester Male Voice Choir
  • Yesteryear

The Harrow Apollo Male Choir sang three pieces, one of which had to be sung a Capella and all completed with a 10 minute time frame. Nerves were evident as we took part in our first choral competition for about 20 years. For many choristers this was their first taste of a competition.

The HAMC’s repertoire was:

Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel

You Are So Beautiful / The Wind Beneath My Wings

The Dam Busters’ March

One of the adjudicators was obviously very impressed by our rendition of Dam Busters.

The majority of the audience were connected to competing choirs in one way or another and judging by the partisan applause, after each choir concluded its performance, you would have thought that their clapping and whooping might have an impact on the adjudicators!

After all the choirs had performed, there was a short delay and then the senior adjudicator announced the results and gave the rationale for selecting the winning choir. Scores were given in the order of performance, so it was quite difficult to work out the placing. There was some debate amongst the HAMC, ranging from 4th to 7th.

Obviously, HAMC would have liked to finish higher than 5th place but the points’ difference between all of the choirs, with the exception of Yesteryear, who came first, was marginal.

Congratulation to Yesteryear (1st), Peterborough MVC (2nd) and Chester MVC (3rd).

It was a few weeks later when the written judges’ report arrived. It was quite encouraging with constructive criticism giving us specific points to work on.

After the competition concluded the choir made its way back to the Llandudno Bay Hotel for some deserved rest and recreation during the free afternoon.

In the evening, we were back at the Venue Cymru singing again, but this time for entertainment purposes only in the Festival Celebration Concert and there wasn’t a furrowed brow to be seen amongst any of the choirs performing for the second time that day. It seemed a consensus of the audience, both our supporters and others, that we sang much better this evening, than we had in the competition earlier. For the evening performance, Dilwyn Morgan was supported by another very able compere: Dilwyn Price.

Mike Gibson said, “Like many other members of the choir, this experience of competition was a first for me. On reflection, I think it was probably the most appropriate festival for “rookie” choristers to take part in. Much fun was enjoyed by all and it was a great object lesson for all of us to see how other male voice choirs perform under stressful conditions.” Most choristers, would agree that it was a worthwhile and overall an enjoyable experience, although, no entries to other competitions have been submitted yet.

Thanks to Mike Gibson for writing the majority of this article with some additions from a variety of other sources.