A Welsh Male Voice Choir at Bellapais
By Margaret Sheard
Bellapais Abbey saw the arrival of the Cowbridge Male Voice Choir on Thursday 4th April and, although there have been other Welsh Male Voice Choirs at the Abbey, this was a very nostalgic occasion for me as I lived in and around the Cowbridge area of Wales for the best part of 33 years before settling in North Cyprus. I found it very strange that the first time I got to hear the Cowbridge Male Voice Choir sing was in North Cyprus and what an uplifting experience it was.
The event was arranged in aid of Help Those with Cancer Association (Tulips) and we were so pleased to see Raziye Kocaismail, the Founder, there to enjoy the evening as well as her dedicated fundraisers Carole King and Sue Tilt. Carole opened the evening firstly welcoming the audience and the choir who were performing totally free of charge in aid of Tulips and she went on to thank the Management of the Abbey for their help and preparation for the evening. Thanks were also extended to Mehmet Sebep from Karkot Ltd for his very kind donation of wine for the half time interval refreshments, which was a very generous gesture. There was no charge for the refreshments at the interval, however, registered charity boxes were available for anyone wishing to make a donation.
Carole went on to introduce two important members of the choir:
Shelley Thomas-Brown BA Hons. the Musical Director. Shelley graduated with honours in Music at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1980. She has been the Musical Director of the Choir since 1985 and arranges music prolifically for the choir. Shelley also lists amongst her interests – horse-riding, good food and wine (but not necessarily in that order!)
Shelley also took on the role of Master of Ceremonies for the evening and did a tremendous job of that as well as leading the choir.
Sandra Williams B Ed, – Accompanist. Sandra gained a Bachelor of Education degree in Music and Education at Trinity College, Carmarthen. She has been associated with the choir since October 1971 holding the positions of Deputy Accompanist and Accompanist. She lives just outside Cowbridge with her husband John who is a tenor with the Choir. Sandra enjoys travelling, eating out and the occasional bottle of wine!
We were also given some information about the choir which is a registered charity and follows the great Welsh tradition of male voice choral singing. The choir have always actively supported worthy causes with fundraising concerts both in the UK and overseas and among the charities which have benefitted from their performances are the Noah’s Ark Appeal for the Children’s Hospital for Wales, Save the Children, Barnardo’s, The Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, The Royal British Legion and of course, with their visit to North Cyprus, Help Those with Cancer Association (Tulips).
Carole then introduced Raziye Kocaismail to say a few words to the audience. Raziye welcomed everyone to the concert and thanked them for their support. She also thanked the Cowbridge Male Voice Choir for coming to entertain the audience and for their continuing efforts in helping charitable causes and that she was looking forward to an evening of outstanding musical excellence.
Raziye thanked Űnal Űstel, the Minister for Tourism, Environment and Culture for allowing the use of the Abbey for the concert and in appreciation she presented a plaque to the Deputy Minister, Şahap Aşıkoğlu, who was standing in for the Minister as he had previous commitments overseas and was unable to attend.
The Deputy Minister gave a short address and we have been told that he was very impressed with the Choir and was sending a gift to all 40 of them at their hotel in Famagusta (Palm Beach) the following morning. A really nice gesture which I am sure would have been very warmly received by them and a nice memory of their time in North Cyprus.
The Abbey was packed to capacity with around 330 in the audience so it was a tremendous turnout to hear the choir and to support Tulips in their never-ending task of raising funds to help cancer sufferers.
The choir consisted of 38 members of the 65 strong choir who had travelled to North Cyprus to give a number of performances including Famagusta. They were already grouped on the stage with their leader Shelley Thomas-Brown and they proceeded to sing hymns and songs to a resounding ovation each time. Among the more popular songs were The Wind Beneath My Wings, Bring Him Home from Les Miserable, American Trilogy and She and many more.
There was a short intermission and the audience were treated to a free glass of wine and a chance to stretch their legs and chat to each other. I was hoping to be able to speak to some of the choir but with so many people around and the short interval, this wasn’t possible, however, I did manage to have a brief word with the choir’s leader, Shelley Thomas-Brown, and she told me a couple of the “boys” were from Llantwit Major which was the last place I lived before moving to North Cyprus. The choir were actually staying in Famagusta and I do hope they had some opportunity to see a little of North Cyprus while they were here. One choir member I managed to speak to told me he had been to the South but had never visited the North before and he was very impressed with what he had been able to see during their short visit.
The second half of the concert continued with many well-known songs, including a medley of Beatles songs, most times receiving a standing ovation, and all too soon it was the end of this wonderful singing and we were treated to the Welsh National Anthem, which brought tears to my eyes, as it always has done. One tiny disappointment was that the choir did not sing Myfanwy which is one of my favourite Welsh songs, but never mind as Chris bought me a CD of the choir and Myfanwy is on that I can now listen to it whenever I want and perhaps they will come to Bellapais and sing again and I can make a request.
This was a concert well worth attending and I hope there will be many more in the future at the stunning venue of Bellapais Abbey.
We later heard from Carole and Sue that 5,046TL was raised in ticket sales and 760.50TL through the collection boxes. A great result and a wonderful concert.
You can enjoy more pictures in the slideshow below and also a short video which was a first attempt by Chris to switch from stills to video on his camera. He says practice makes perfect and in the future hopes to be able to capture more on video.