I sat, moved by fifty Welshmen, in their everyday clothes, pouring their souls into their national pastime. These men were practising for the pure pleasure of singing together, with the thought of their future concerts clearly in second place.
Rarely have I felt it such an amazing privilege to be a spectator (or should that be ‘listener’) to such a inconspicuous event. As I listen to them hone their already trained voices – many are Blue Riband singers – to the next level of perfection, I have to admit to a moment or two of deep emotion. Heaven knows, they’re good.
These guys were singing on the pitch of the Millennium Stadium down in Cardiff only a week ago, at the Six Nations game, yet here they are, farmers, painters and decorators, quarrymen, and shepherds, big muscular men, sitting literally on the edge of their orange plastic chairs in a little church hall in Betws-y-Coed, singing their hearts out. They draw from each other the deepest richest tones. They humbly pay attention to their musical director John Daniel as he coaches them bi-lingually on the finer detail of each bar and refines each phrase. They focus their attention, no, affection, on bringing Bridge Over Troubled Water to a new level of meaning, not least for me.
Some of these men have driven a hundred miles to be at this practice, and they do it every two weeks. At the half time coffee break the sound of singing voices is replaced by that natural relaxed chatter of people comfortable with each other, teasing, laughing. I can only admire the closeness of a common bond and the shared fun of taking their music from this hall to a wider world (they’ve been to Australia and the States).
I will never forget that practice as the sheer volume of sound (carefully controlled by John Daniel: “DO NOT, under ANY account, sacrifice quality and tuning for volume.” Note to Self: Never sacrifice quality and tuning for volume.) flowed out beyond the lobby doors of that small space towards the street outside. As the ten or so of us in the impromptu audience finally emerged from this relaxing auditory massage, I knew the passion of ‘Cantorion Colin Jones’ (aka The North Wales Male Chorus) had reached into my heart.
And so had their love.