Côr Dyfed was very glad to welcome Sam Howley back to the fold to take a vocal workshop with us earlier this month. Sam has been a good friend of the choir for many years, as our accompanist and as a singing teacher. He is an accomplished composer of choral works, operas and instrumental pieces. In fact, just prior to our workshop, we heard that Sam was a winner in an international competition for composing a work for Baroque violin and harpsichord.
Closer to home, and during Lockdown, Sam has composed two new pieces for the Dyfed Choir. We are currently rehearsing “Voices in the Wind” with words by Peter George, and “I Wandered Lonely, as a Cloud”, a piece based on Wordsworth’s poem. We are very much looking forward to hearing ourselves sing these pieces live, rather than on Zoom.
The workshop took place over two Zoom sessions during which the choir was reminded how to sing correctly. Not as obvious as it sounds. Posture and breath control is everything as is loose clothing – “buy a bigger dress or suit”, Sam says. Breathe purposefully but don’t over-breathe. Open your mouths, drop jaws (north/south not west/east) and don’t worry about the faces you make. It seems that the English aren’t as good as the Welsh at this! Imagine that you have a boiled egg in your mouth or a golf ball (but don’t try this at home).
Shoulders down, back straight, as if a string from the ceiling is running from head to base of spine. And don’t frown, lift eyebrows. It made a surprising difference to the sound when we tried singing both ways. Keep your tongue flat in the base of your mouth.
Maybe the most useful tip for me was “if it hurts you’re doing it wrong”. My move to the tenor section from the altos a few years ago suggests that I should have heeded the warning years earlier!
So, thank you Sam - you’ve made us all realise that learning the notes is a doddle compared to actually singing them!
It was with great sadness that we received news in April during lockdown that Gwyn Phillips, one of the choir stalwarts, had passed away. Over a span of half a century Gwyn undertook a variety of roles within the choir and performed them all with quiet efficiency. These included: Chairman, Treasurer, for many years, and as a member of the publicity sub-committee where he was responsible for, amongst other things, planning and siting of the banner and the roadside signs advertising concerts. He was also the stage erection manager and, as choir marshal, had the unenviable task of arranging the concert seating. This job entails liaising with administration representatives of relevant venues and measuring precisely how the stage fits in with its surroundings; no mean task and such was Gwyn's meticulous diligence and unassuming manner, that choir members could always depend upon his careful planning.
Gwyn was blessed with a calm and pleasant temperament. Liked by all, he always remained unruffled despite the inevitable challenges and occasional crises which arise at concert time. He also possessed a fine bass voice and was a dependable chorister. His absence will be felt most keenly by the bass section.
Gwyn had other interests in life apart from the choir: as an enthusiastic yachtsman he was involved in the running of Neyland Yacht Club for many years. He also shone as a footballer in his younger days, playing as a defender for Fishguard, his home town. He recounted the time when Fishguard Sports reached the final of the Pembrokeshire Cup which unfortunately clashed with a Côr Dyfed Choir Concert at St Davids. His decision to sing in the concert rather than play football is a tribute to his loyalty and commitment to the choir. Although it is said that no one is indispensable, Gwyn’s shoes will be very hard to fill and we will miss him terribly.
We extend our deepest sympathy to Berry and the family.
Rest in peace, Gwyn.
We haven't been idle during lockdown!
Apart from our weekly Zoom choir practice, take a look at what we've been up to:
Côr Dyfed Choir - Curry Evening, Taj Mahal, Haverfordwest
Many thanks to the SFRC for their work in organising the curry evening, and thanks to all those who helped in other ways; buyng raffle tickets, supporting the event and bringing their friends along. It was a very enjoyable evening with delicious food, good company and excellent service from all the staff at the Taj Mahal. Ticket sales and raffle raised just over £500 for choir funds. We were also very lucky to have a feature on the evening, with write up and photos published in the Western Telegraph. Many thanks to Abul Hussein the owner of The Taj Mahal in Haverfordwest.
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