Auckland Welsh Choir

A Kiwi Choir with a Celtic connection

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Waikato Times - 19 November 2017

REVIEW: Sam Edwards 

Diolch am yr angerdd a'r cerddorfa fy ffrindiau. (Translates for di-Gymraeg as, Thanks for the passion and musicianship my friends.)  The Auckland Welsh Choir paid their first formal visit to Cambridge to sing to us in St Andrew's Church.  It is a beautiful building, but not the easiest for choirs to show their best voice.  Conductor Diana Williams Rhodes was unfazed, the choir adapted with truly professional musicianship, and the nearly full house audience enjoyed a repertoire which opened so musically appropriately, and a capella, with the early 17th century madrigal Musica die ganz lieblich Kunst = Music, the most lovely art.  The choir was true to that promise, and performed lovely Welsh folk tunes, a singalong Land of My Fathers in Welsh which raised the hairs on one's neck, and spirituals.  Love songs included an 18th century lump-in-throater accompanied by a true Welsh harp, and over a dozen other works ranging from Williams Rhodes's own evocative composition Aorangi Requiem to a smashing quartette from Beethoven's only opera, Mir ist so Wunderbar, meaning I feel so wonderful - and we all did. 



Manukau Courier - 11 November 2015

WELSH CHOIR HELPS KIDZ FIRST YOUNGSTERS

An 8-year-old Opera Idol finalist will sing solo when the Auckland Welsh Choir performs its first ever festive Christmas concert.  Mt Albert's Lukas Maher will sing soprano at the concert held at St Columba's Church in Botany Downs on December 6th at 3pm.  But his will not be the only young voice - One Tree Hill's youth choirs are also on a bill that features the Bella Brass Quintet.  The Auckland Welsh choir is drawn from across the city - "almost Bombay to the Brynderwyns", conductor Diana Williams Rhodes says.  "We also wanted to fundraise for Kidz First Children's Hospital at Middlemore so including young people was a natural thing to do".  Choir members range from students to people in their 80s who all travel to Mt Eden's St Barnabas Church to rehearse.  Rhodes says the festive programme is packed with well loved music and will showcase outstanding young musicians alongside the choir.  Middlemore Foundation spokesman David Kemeys says he's ashamed to be of Welsh extraction yet unable to hold a note.  "I went to rehearsal to talk to choir members and was blown away by what I heard.  Not only was it beautiful but by opting to hold the concert for Kidz First, our children will benefit.  It is a very generous thing for all the performers to do".    

 

 National Radio Interview - 17 November 2013

The Welsh love to sing it seems, and the Auckland Welsh Choir is no different.  In collaboration with the Devonport Chamber Orchestra they're celebrating the birth of Prince George - a future Prince of Wales - with a concert of Handel's Coronation Anthems, plus some lullabies and traditional Welsh songs.  There's just one catch though; hardly any of the members are actually Welsh. Justin Gregory talks to their chairman Philip Morgan Rees at rehearsal. 

 

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/artsonsunday/audio/2576660/auckland-welsh-choir's-celebration-of-prince-george

 

Central Leader - 8 November 2013

CHOIR CELEBRATES A PRINCE

An upcoming concert celebrates the birth of a prince and supports the Auckland City Mission's Christmas appeal.  The Auckland Welsh Choir, in its annual collaboration with the Devonport Chamber Orchestra will perform a concert called Music for a Prince at St Matthew-in-the-City on November 23 at 3pm.  The concert showcases the famous anthems Handel wrote for the coronation of King George II and his wife Caroline almost 300 years ago.  Lullabies and favourites from the choir's cornerstone Welsh repertoire will be performed in honour of the future 23rd Prince of Wales, the new Prince George of Cambridge.  The concert supports the City Mission's Christmas appeal.  Christmas is the Mission's busiest time of year.  In 2012 more than 2500 food parcels were distributed, 5000 children received presents, and 2500 attended a Christmas lunch.  New Zealand's Welsh population is small but substantial - according to the 2006 census more than 6700 New Zealand residents were born in Wales, which has a population of just over 3 million, including 560,000 Welsh speakers.  There are about 720,000 people in the world fluent in Welsh including 1080 in New Zealand.  The Auckland Welsh Choir is led by musical director Diana Williams Rhodes, assistant musical director Steven Rapana and chairman Philip Morgan Rees.

 

Howick and Pakuranga Times - 20 November 2012

WELSH CHOIR SINGING THE ROOF ON

THE booming vocals of the Auckland Welsh Choir will be singing the roof on when they perform at All Saints Church this Saturday.  The choir is appearing in support of Habitat for Humanity's home build renovations project.  The 40 member choir will be supported by the Devonport Chamber Orchestra for the special benefit concert.  The choir puts on a musical extravaganza at least three times a year in support of charities around the Auckland Region.  Those attending Saturday's concert can expect a mix of classical, folk, choral and Welsh music.  All the proceeds generated from the concert will go to help Habitat for Humanity's home build and renovation projects in Auckland.  Conrad LaPointe, of Habitat for Humanity, says: "We are very flattered that the Auckland Welsh Choir has chosen us to be one of their charities this year.  The money raised from this concert will pay for a roof on our next home build."  Secretary for the Auckland Welsh Choir, Karen Brook, says: "We're very excited about supporting Habitat for Humanity.  It's an inspiring charity and it's great to see our efforts will be used for such a tangible outcome." 

The Four Seasons concert at All Saints Church, on the corner of Selwyn Road and Cook Street, Howick, is on November 24th from 2-4pm.  Tickets cost $25 and are available from All Saints Church or by phoning Habitat for Humanity on 271-3357.  There are also door sales available.   

 

Auckland Welsh Choir supports the Welsh Rugby Team

RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011

When the Auckland Welsh Choir was invited to sing at SouthMall in Manurewa, which was hosting the Welsh during the first weekend of the Rugby World Cup, they little knew it was going to be the first of many gigs for the cup.  In addition to their regular formal concerts, the concert has now sung on the huge stage next to the Cloud at Party Central on a chilly, wet and squally day; at a rugby club full of exuberant rugby supporters in Remuera; on Maori TV, BBC, French and Sky Sport TV.  They have sung in wind and rain, in cold and in sunshine.  Wearing extra red clothing adorned with Welsh flags and scarves, they sang for Sky TV outside the Viaduct Events Centre, against a backdrop of sleek boats, city skyline, and the Sky Tower, while a Welsh/Auckland type rain gently fell.  Only when watching the gig later on television did members spot a tiny elderly woman with a yellow umbrella, standing on tip-toe behind one of the tallest men in the back row and holding her umbrella over his head!  Auckland Welsh Choir has had fun being part of the Rugby World Cup and their only regret is that all their enthusiastic singing did not ensure that Wales came through the semi-finals.  But Welsh rugby fans worldwide would have been reassured that Kiwi Welsh and Auckland Welsh Choir were behind their team.   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqS3WlUQBBY

 

Reviews

 

St David's Day Concert Takapuna

4 MARCH 2012: review published in the North Shore Times

The Auckland Welsh Choir celebrated St David's Day with a varied and soaring performance of choral, solo, and group singing to a packed audience at St Joseph's Church, Takapuna.  The Celtic Colours concert included traditional Welsh, Irish and Scots music - some of the latter enhanced by the haunting accompaniment of bagpipes.  Harpist Anna Dunwoodie and smallpiper Shane Stewart played a set which included a couple of catchy Welsh ditties.  Choir director Diana Rhodes included Mendelssohn's 'Verleih uns Frieden' among the Celtic songs.  Recently performed with the Devonport Chamber Orchestra, that and one other piece in German may have seemed out of place, but we were reminded by Philip Morgan Rees, the choir's chairman, that the Celts originated in Central Europe.  Perhaps one of the most lyrical pieces was 'A Bunch of Thyme', described by a member of the audience as "like watching sunlight catch the tips of mountains and then fading, only to return."  Arranger Michael Neaum excels in reworking some of the world's most attractive folk melodies for female voices.  A star of the show at the opening of the second half was the piper with drummer, dramatically entering the church playing 'Flower of Scotland' to be met by five soldierly men singing the song in Welsh.  A dramatic and controversial interpretation of 'Men of Harlech' rounded off the afternoon.  But the concert was not over until the audience happily joined the choir in singing 'Cwm Rhondda' (Guide me oh thou great Jehovah).  Some of the audience reminded themselves to bring cushions next year - the pew seats were hard! But no complaints from North Shore Hospice, the concert raised $4000 for them. 

 

Orchestra and Choir team up again for Christmas Extravaganza

9 DECEMBER 2011: review published in the Devonport Flagstaff

Devonport Chamber Orchestra and the Auckland Welsh Choir performed a medley of Mendelssohn classics, along with some well known Christmas and Welsh songs for their final concert of 2011.  After a brief but warm welcome from Holy Trinity's Reverend Braatvedt, the concert commenced with a voice only piece; Gustav Holst's 'Lullay my Liking'.  The talented choir of over 40 singers made an excellent job of this beautiful song.  The choir then changed formation for their first main performance 'Verleih uns Frieden' by Felix Mendelssohn.  The deep tones of the larger strings and men's voices created a solemn but peaceful feeling at the commencement of this work.  When violins, female voices, and winds were included later, a wonderful new dimension was imparted, with the effect of the full choir adding a touch of grandeur.  Mendelssohn wrote the 'Hebrides Overture' after making an unforgettable visit to Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa.  The majestic opening, involving the full orchestra, would be familiar to many.  There is great texture in this piece, which allowed DCO to demonstrate their many talents and there was a particularly lovely solo from the clarinettists.  Steven Rapana's conducting style added suitable flair and passion to this dramatic work.  The third Mendelssohn item, 'Hear my Prayer' saw the return of orchestra and choir working together.  This time we were treated to solo performances from singers Diana Rhodes, Sheridan Williams, Steven Rapana and Brooke van Velden.  Each singer bought a different quality to the piece, the pitch of their voices well-matched to the accompaniment of the orchestra.  I thought Williams gave an especially strong performance.  Throughout there was an overall sense of Christmas spirit and harmony, skilfully brought together by Rhode's capable conducting abilities.  Next were two relatively brief pieces; Ave Maria and Silent Night.  Both were given special treatment by musicians and singers, with Pene Brawn-Douglas playing solo flute and Lynette Read piano for Ave Maria, and Philip Morgan Rees singing solo in Welsh for Silent Night.  The choir provided accompaniment for both with very pleasing results all round.  For Michael Praetorius' 'Sing Dem Herrn' a select number of choir members formed into a chamber choir.  The combination of their singing was superb and reminded me of bells chiming in one of Europe's great cathedrals.  Later in the piece, more singers joined the group and the additional accompaniment of wind instruments made for an emotive performance.  Christus, the fourth Mendelssohn work performed by orchestra and choir, signalled a change of pace with the double bass initially giving a very Germanic flavour.  Singers Sheridan Williams, Steven Rapana, Desmond Tonkin, Philip Morgan Rees and Phillip Austin gave impressive performances against this backdrop, with a dramatic conclusion that involved the full participation of orchestra and choir.  This should have been the final piece of the concert but the performers agreed to a second performance of 'Hebrides Overture', following a request from audience members who had arrived late, mistaking the concert starting time.  I found the second performance to be every bit as good as the first.  Then, as an extra special treat for the latecomers, one final performance was staged - the Welsh National Anthem.  Despite my lack of Welsh blood, I couldn't help getting a tear in my eye on hearing the Auckland Welsh Choir and DCO's fine playing in Steven Rapana's arrangement of this traditional anthem. 

By Maria Teape.    

 

Orchestra and Choir Combine to Grand Effect

17 DECEMBER 2010: review published in The Devonport Flagstaff

While their compatriots were suffering arctic climes in the homelands, the Auckland Welsh Choir performed in starkly contrasting temperatures with Devonport Chamber Orchestra (DCO) on Sunday 28 November.  Held in Devonport's Holy Trinity Church, this performance was DCO's grand finale of the year and very grand it was.  We were treated to an extensive and varied concert featuring traditional Welsh songs, favourite baroque pieces and the hauntingly beautiful world premiere of Christopher Marshall's Canco del Mar (Song of the Sea).  The first piece of the day was Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.  According to the programme notes it is the traditional national anthem of Wales.  This version was a collaboration of the strings, winds and full choir; with a solo performance by tenor Steven Rapana.  It began softly, first with just the choir, followed by strings, then winds.  Rapana's big voice was well suited to this very patriotic song, which swelled in volume to a triumphant ending.  Rapana changed to conducting role for the next piece: Verdi's Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (Coro di Schiavi Ebrei).  This well known song from the opera Nabucco, tells the story of the Jewish exiles from Babylon, after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  There was great synergy between the orchestra and choir in this piece; both producing powerful tones, but neither overpowering the other.  Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus was very relaxing to listen to.  This is only a short score, composed for choir, strings and organ.  It was the perfect piece to showcase the choir who put on a stellar performance, while the orchestra took on a more understated role.  The audience was suitably impressed.  Before the fourth item commenced the choir took their leave as Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante is only for winds and orchestra.  In addition to the main orchestra, a quartet was seated out in front with Eugenie Middleton playing the oboe, Michael Miller - clarinet, Craig Bradfield - bassoon, and John Ure - french horn.  They were consummate musicians, putting on a very polished performance with great expression, while the wind instrumentalists in the orchestra provided excellent support.  Two of the quartet members were guests from the Navy Band (Miller and Bradfield), along with conductor Colin Clark.  Next was the much anticipated premiere of Canco del Mar.  We thought both the choir and musicians (just six musicians for this piece) did a superb rendition of this eclectic piece.  There were beautiful tones from the winds, particularly the bass clarinet played by Andrew Uren; and enchanting nautical tones from Harry Peirse's keyboard,  It was very evocative of being at sea with all it's different moods.  The piece concluded with haunting tones from Rosana Fea's violin and a collective sigh from the choir.  The sixth piece saw the return of the full orchestra again.  The choir left the stage with the exception of soprano soloist, Diana Rhodes.  Together DCO and Rhodes performed the Ave Maria Intermezzo from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, one of the greatest sensations in opera history.  From its subtle beginning to it's stirring conclusion Diana Rhodes entranced us with a very strong performance.  Y Deryn Pur is another traditional Welsh song which translates to 'O Gentle Dove'.  We thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful Celtic tones the choir, guitar, piccolo and violin produced.  Diana Rhodes who conducted this piece explained to the audience afterwards that the piccolo is representative of the dove in what is essentially a love story.  The final item of the concert was a combination of John Rutter's Angel's Carol, a beautiful and moving Christmas song, followed by a Welsh inspired piece jointly produced by Diana Rhodes and Steven Rapana.  Once again the choir put on an outstanding performance, delightfully accompanied by DCO.  This has been another wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with top rate performers.  It is a privilege made possible by the community spiritedness of DCO and their associates. 

By Maria Teape.