If you thought a Tideswell Male Voice Choir performance was about a lot of superannuated gentlemen in matching blazers shuffling onto stage to sing Welsh hymns, then ponder anew. The latest offerings from this acclaimed ensemble, under the direction of their dynamic animateur Dennis Kay, have practically re-invented the genre and brought the fantastic male voice choir sound to a new and appreciative audience.
The first weekend in October saw the men performing in two shows on consecutive evenings alongside their friends – those “Amazons of Singing” and T.V. celebrities – The Military Wives.
The reason for the two identical concerts was to avoid disappointing their followers who wished to hear them, because last year’s single-night event with “The Wives” sold out as soon as it was advertised.
The first show was in the newly refurbished Art Deco masterpiece of The Stockport Plaza and the second in the elegant Edwardian ambience of The Buxton Opera House, the latter a sell-out and the former to an audience of eight hundred.
It is all too easy as a critic to lapse into hyperbole, but these two shows were nothing less than spectacular. The Stockport show opened with a march on by members of the 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital (one of eleven T.A. field hospitals in the British Army) to its regimental march Under the Double Eagle, then the curtain rose to reveal the entire company of T.M.V.C., Military Wives and soloists giving a spine-tingling performance of Barry Manilow’s One Voice.
The show then unfolded in all its captivating variety with “The Wives” (directed by Rachel Smith) and T.M.V.C. vying with each other to see who could elicit the most rapturous applause – and all this punctuated with scintillating performances from astonishingly talented young soloists: “The Stars of the Future”.
In the second half, the company was transformed into Victor Hugo’s characters from Les Miserables in Cameron Mackintosh’s musical masterpiece. Much of the score had been specially adapted by T.M.V.C.’s principal accompanist Christopher Ellis, who with breathtaking virtuosity on the keyboard, and enviable stamina, held the whole fabric of this amazing show together.
The standing ovations at the ends of both of these performances are ample testimony to the quality of entertainment on offer from T.M.V.C. and those with whom they share the stage.
The soloists: Erin Alexander, Matthew Mellor, Philip Rigley, Charlotte Hoather, Marcus Kitchen, Madeleine Osborne, Georgia Odette and Kieron Connor-Valentine were simply sublime!
Ukraine’s top male choir, The Boyan Ensemble of Kiev, is coming to Buxton by courtesy of the award-winning Tideswell
Male Voice Choir. Connoisseurs of choral art will not want to miss hearing them perform Sacred Chants &
Ukrainian Folk Songs.
When: Friday 11 October 7.30pm
Where: The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, SK17 6XN
A compelling programme in which the first half illuminates the spiritual drama and splendour of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, while in the second, songs of joy, humour and nostalgia convey the rich folk culture of Ukraine.
One first-timer’s joyous response was neatly summed up: “CAssOcks in Part I, COssAcks in Part 2”.
TICKETS: £17; groups 10+ £16. Tel: 01298 77947; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s surprise inclusion is a short tribute to the Verdi bicentenary with three well known works:
- the beautiful soprano aria, La Vergine degli angeli (Act 2 Force of Destiny);
- the stirring Anvil Chorus (Act 2 Il trovatore),
- and the sparkling Brindisi duet, Libiamo (Act 1 La Traviata)
For those who have not heard them before, the Boyan Ensemble is known for its mastery of vocal technique, with delicately floated pianissimos and breathtakingly brilliant fortes. A lineup of superb soloists is featured throughout, including soprano Valentina Ivanenko, the only female voice, who complements the awesome bass voices to great effect. Spine-tingling stuff!
Boyan’s 26 members are drawn from Ukraine’s top professional male choir, The Revutsky Academic Male Capella, based in Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv.
“Intense harmony, astonishing low notes, utterly glorious singing – how did the basses attain a bottom B-flat so effortlessly?”
The Alice in Wonderland setting of Gawsworth Hall, with its gem of a Tudor mansion and beautiful gardens, was the venue for a superb concert on the evening of Sunday 11th August.
As the stars glittered in the firmament above this venerable setting, an equally glittering galaxy of singers had assembled for a much anticipated performance of a Les Miserables Spectacular. The Tideswell Male Voice Choir had ventured from its traditional heartland in The Peak District to this lovely part of Cheshire and was joined by a constellation of astonishingly young and highly talented soloists recruited from various musical academies throughout the country. With a formula like this, the evening could only be a runaway success. And it was.
The first half was a dazzling assortment of mainly contemporary pieces from both choir and soloists and the second, a medley of pieces from Les Miserables – songs which have become so popular, it is no exaggeration to say they have become part of our collective musical psyche.
“1,500 pages of unremitting gloom” is how Victor Hugo’s dark novel Les Miserables was once described to me. However, there was nothing gloomy about the second half of the Gawsworth concert as the sixty performers on stage brought Cameron Mackintosh’s adaptation of Boubil and Schonberg’s musical masterpiece to vibrant life. They explored the themes of injustice, redemption, obsession and love, with heartfelt vocal conviction. The soloists were sublime; the choir magnificent and all this to the keyboard accompaniment of Christopher Ellis who, with Lisztian facility, added a thickly textured, almost orchestral quality to the performance.
No ordinary male voice choir this: the men were disciplined, animated, engaged and engaging, with much expression and movement, the fruits no doubt of many rehearsal hours under the watchful tutoring of their choreographer, Wendy Cook.
It would be invidious to single out any individual soloist for special mention; they all sang and performed superbly well and brought a refreshing element of youthfulness (their ages range from sixteen to twenty one) to this magical evening. Erin Alexander, Charlotte Hoather, Georgia Odette, Matthew Mellor and Kieron-Connor Valentine are all names we should look out for in future as they forge their singing careers. Add to this the voice of Phil Rigley as Javert and the diminutive figure of nine-year-old Madeline Osborne as Cosette, both of whom gave unforgettable performances.
This was an evening’s entertainment of the highest quality, and tribute must be paid to its creator, TMVC’s musical director, animateur and impresario Dennis Kay, who is already deeply engaged in his next major opus: two shows on consecutive evenings (5th and 6th October at Stockport Plaza and Buxton Opera House respectively) when TMVC and some of the above young soloists will perform with the (original) Military Wives Choir as featured in the BBC television series “The Choir”.
The worst part about a concert by Tideswell Male Voice Choir is coming to the end of it! The singing of this fine ensemble just gets better and better and always leaves you wanting more. In this case – the occasion was a concert at St Leonard's Church, Ipstones, Staffordshire, on 22nd June – the audience got more, as the choir rounded off an evening of highly entertaining choral singing with the encore What Would I do Without my Music?
Their performance of a largely contemporary programme was exhilarating and it was punctuated with two solo slots by their astonishingly accomplished principal accompanist Christopher Ellis. It was a privilege to be there just to hear him play (two Gershwyn pieces from Porgy and Bess and a Chopin nocturne) with unerring and breathtaking virtuosity.
The latter half of the concert was largely devoted to performances of songs from the ever-popular Les Miserables and featured a memorably fine solo (Bring Him Home) from the choir’s musical director Dennis Kay. This was a foretaste of the major concert at Gawsworth Hall on Sunday 11th August when the choir will perform an expanded version of pieces from Les Miserables with solo items by a number of dazzlingly talented young singers.
St Leonard’s church was crowded for this occasion and no expense or effort had been spared to provide refreshments for both audience and choir in the form of wine and a delightful variety of home made confections. This was by no means a misplaced extravagance as by the end of the evening, the astonishing sum of over £1,000 had been raised towards a fund for installing a peal of bells in this lovely old church.
Here are some pictures of our outing to Cornwall this year:
The concert at Cheadle Community Arts Centre on 13th April was chiefly memorable for three things. First of these was the singing of Carrie Ann Williams, a fourth year student at Birmingham Conservatoire and a supremely accomplished young lady with the voice of an angel. She sang a thoughtfully constructed programme of contrasting pieces with great authority and assurance and elicited rapturous applause from a delighted audience. Tideswell Male Voice Choir has a reputation for encouraging young performers, and providing opportunities for them to perform and exhibit their talent. Carrie Ann Williams is a more than worthy addition to the constellation of young soloists, such as Erin Alexander, Charlotte Hoather and Matthew Mellor, they have had the pleasure of sharing the concert platform with.
The second thing which made this an evening to remember was the singing of the justly acclaimed Tideswell Male Voice Choir. Resplendent in their handsome mustard coloured jackets, they treated us to a demonstration of refined choral singing which fully justified the invitation which the mayor and council of Cheadle had extended to them, to attend this concert in aid of The Macmillan Nurses charity.
The third thing for which this concert will be remembered was an unfortunate incident involving a foot and a very heavy keyboard. The foot was attached to a limb of TMVC’s principal accompanist, Christopher Ellis, and the keyboard was being carried to its station a little before the concert start by himself and musical director Dennis Kay. These two gentlemen being perhaps unskilled or inexperienced in manual handling, let the instrument drop and its descent was interrupted by Christopher’s toe – resulting in the fracture of that appendage! What to do? The irrepressible Christopher, notwithstanding a good deal of excruciating pain, continued with the concert, his bandaged toe resting on a stool and his performance seeming so little affected as to be indistinguishable from his usual magnificent self. A later visit to A&E confirmed that he had sustained quite a serious injury to his toe, but the latest news is that he is making an excellent recovery.
It is perhaps worth a mention, although maestro Dennis Kay did not thank me for reminding him, that the beautiful church of Saint Giles stands but a little removed from the scene of this mishap. Saint Giles, it will be remembered, is the patron saint of cripples!
For those fortunate persons who attended the first concert of the season by TMVC on the evening of 7th April, it was a case of “buy one, get one free”, because the Peak District’s famous choir shared the concert at The Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton, with their guests from the east of England: the Huntingdon Male Voice Choir.
The concert opened (appropriately) with Let All Men Sing from the ninety voices of the two choirs under the baton of HMVC’s distinguished musical director, Peter Davies.
So these two fine choirs took their turns on the stage, Huntingdon with its unashamedly traditional approach and Tideswell with a more contemporary programme. Audience reaction to both ensembles was sufficient testimony to the enduring popularity of this unique genre of choral singing.
It is interesting to reflect on the changes in repertoire and indeed in audience expectations in recent years, and on how TMVC has responded to these trends. While other choirs excavate their libraries for dog-eared copies of old warhorses such as Martyrs of the Arena and Comrades in Arms (not that these are undeserving of occasional performance), TMVC are delighting audiences with their interpretation of contemporary popular pieces and bringing the uniquely beautiful male-voice-choir sound to a new and appreciative generation.
The programme was punctuated with scintillating performances from guest soloists Erin Alexander and Matthew Mellor. Erin is a glittering talent; her slight but elegant figure belies the vocal power she is capable of generating. Her versatility was demonstrated in The Girl in 14G, where she astonished us with an awesome range of vocal styles from Broadway musical, moody cabaret, Mozartian coloratura, grand Italian Opera and Wagnerian helden-soprano.
Matthew Mellor is another of those talents which streak across the show-business firmament like a shooting-star; they seem to come upon us “ready made”. He entertained us with two large-scale solos from recent show hits: I Wont Send Roses from “Mack and Mabel” and This is the Moment from “Jeckyll and Hyde”. He sings with passion and conviction; a comparison with Michael Ball would not be too extravagant
The duets by these two prodigiously talented teenagers were achingly beautiful.
In the second half, Christopher Ellis (Principal accompanist to TMVC and a a much-sought-after concert pianist), gave performances of Rachmaninov’s Etude Tableaux op 39 No.1 and an unpublished sketch by Gershwin: For Lily Pons. Two contrasting pieces, the latter a rarity, performed with consummate virtuosity.
Before the final item, the President of TMVC, Edwina (there is only one Edwina), made an eloquent and witty address in which she reminded potential and hesitant gentlemen in the audience that they would be welcomed into the community of The Tideswell Male Voice Choir if they turned up to their rehearsals and decided to stay.
Matthew made his choir-conducting debut as TMVC’s musical director Dennis Kay reaffirmed his superb vocal credentials in a moving performance of Bring Him Home.
The evening came to a tumultuous climax with all performers joining in the stirring Do You Hear the People Sing, which naturally elicited a demand for an encore. A fitting finale to a superb musical experience.
Don’t miss the opportunity to listen to TMVC as they present an evening of music from the musicals, in the spectacular setting of Gawsworth Hall, Macclesfield, Cheshire.
Picture the scene: a glorious evening in August, an open-air thousand-seat theatre, set in the glorious floodlit gardens of this ancient Manor House with all its romance and charm, listening to the songs from the musicals brought to you by the award-winning Tideswell Male Voice Choir and featuring some of the country’s leading young talent.
If you love Musical Theatre and the songs from them, in particular Les Miserables, you won’t want to miss this.
For further details, visit gawsworthhall@btinternet,com or telephone 01260 223456
Sunday 7th October at Buxton Opera House was an evening of unalloyed excellence.
The occasion was the long-anticipated concert by Tideswell Male Voice Choir (TMVC), The Military Wives and guest soloists. A sell-out since it was first advertised in April, there was not a seat to be had in the 900-capacity auditorium, such are the reputation and popularity of these fine ensembles and artistes.
This was not the only opportunity the public had of hearing the Military Wives that weekend, for they sang with local schoolchildren and TMVC at Buxton Football Ground on the Saturday before.
THE MILITARY WIVES
In Buxton's wat’ry spa they gave, those Military Wives
With Tideswell Male Voice Choir, the concert of their lives!
All who were there that night averred of this fantastic show
It was the very best they’d heard, before they left to go!
The talk of all the nation, respected far and wide,
A source of admiration, we speak of them with pride.
They sang it loud, they sang it clear, that night their voice they found
They sang of absent husbands dear and wished them homeward bound.
While warriors toil ’neath foreign skies, they also do their duty,
They charm the nation's ears and eyes with female grace and beauty.
They’ve won the hearts of young and old, these Amazons of Singing,
A special place for them we hold for the pleasure they are bringing.
They sing of lovers far from home, of longings unrequited,
Of how the blessed day must come when they’ll be reunited.
In anxious times few things can raise the spirit more than song
That helps to ease the lonely days when gloomy musings throng.
So with bright song they find a way to let their fancies roam
And eagerly await the day their men are coming home.
(But paying for this enterprise? Who would the funds augment?
Would business to the challenge rise and sponsor the event?
The Palace, Tarmac, Markovitz and Lomas Distribution
With Holdsworth Handmade Choc'lates, all made a contribution!)
With thanks to our Poet Choreate, to coin a phrase.
In a truly splendid display of Buxton hospitality, the Military Wives were entertained and accommodated throughout by the generosity of local businesses: Tarmac, Markovitz, The Palace Hotel, Lomas Distribution and Holdsworth Chocolates.
Those fortunate enough to have obtained the precious tickets to the Opera House were treated to a succession of perfect pieces from both ensembles, punctuated with superb performances by soloists Erin Alexander and Phil Rigley. The demure figure of TV’s Charles Foster welcomed us to the show and linked the various items seamlessly with his entertaining wit.
The Military Wives, now something of a national treasure, brought their own brand of heart-warming entertainment to the proceedings. They are visually delightful and vocally superb and we are never far away from reminding ourselves who they are and what they represent, which gives added poignancy to their performance. Not that they don’t know how to enjoy themselves, as evidenced by their spirited rendering of A. Lloyd Weber’s Sing. Their performance of their signature tune Wherever You Are was heartfelt and moving. And when they mingled with TMVC in the joint item You’ll Never Walk Alone, which opened the show, the effect was awesome.
Tideswell Male Voice Choir were on scintillating form – not least in their breathless (and humorous) interpretation of Drunken Sailor and a visceral performance of Anthem from the musical Chess.
In the right hands, a male voice choir is a magnificent instrument, capable of great power but also great subtlety. Musical Director Dennis Kay is the man who has brought this wonderful ensemble to the perfection it achieved this evening. With seemingly boundless energy, he also conducted every piece by the “Wives”
Erin Alexander is a vocal prodigy. At eighteen years old (astonishingly!) It is difficult to see how her voice can further improve since it has arrived at a level of maturity and sonority which give her the ability to deliver ambitious pieces such as Un Bel Di Vedremo (One Fine Day) and Air Des Bijoux (The Jewel Song). She sings with convincing authority and with an elegance and grace of movement which are perfectly choreographed with the mood of the lyrics. Her voice is never less than beautiful – we shall hear more of Erin Alexander.
Phil Rigley – another teenager – stepped forward from the ranks of TMVC to delight us with Tell My Father in his precocious but manly baritone. Phil joined Erin in the touching duet Come What May and they were joined by the “Wives” and TMVC in a magnificent finale which brought the audience to its feet and made a fitting climax to this memorable Show. At its conclusion, Edwina Currie, TMVC’s president, gave the thanks and acknowledgements, filling the house with her inimitable personality and charm.
This was a magical evening – a celebration of music and the power of the human voice to elicit the entire spectrum of emotions in the listener. But there was a matrix to all this reverie and that was the playing by TMVC’s principal accompanist Christopher Ellis. I am already at risk of adjectival exhaustion, so I will say no more than that this extraordinary young man’s contribution was, in every respect, “perfect”. – TME
When two widely acclaimed, talented and enthusiastic ensembles come together in the same programme, you have the formula for an exciting and entertaining concert. Such was the case on Saturday 22nd September in the superb gothic setting of St John the Baptist Church (the “Cathedral of the Peak”) in Tideswell, when Tideswell Male Voice Choir were joined by their guests the Abbeydale Singers on the occasion of their special Annual Concert. TMVC were of course on home ground while the Abbeydale Singers, a mixed ensemble of some 30 singers, had travelled from the Fulwood district of Sheffield.
Tideswell MVC opened the concert with their top tenors: exposed, alone, but relaxed and confident in the opening first verse of You’ll Never Walk Alone, to be joined in harmony by the entire fifty-strong choir in a second verse which would have thrilled the hearts of Liverpool FC supporters everywhere! They continued the opening section with arrangements of familiar pieces, each performed with feeling and energy, and quickly established a palpable rapport with the highly appreciative audience.
Vocal diffidence is a quality unknown to Abbeydale’s musical director, Kevin Haighton; in his animated preamble to each piece, he delivered as many syllables per second as a Bakewell auctioneer on market day; all of it however, interesting, informative and germane.
There could not have been a greater contrast between Abbeydale’s first offering: Thomas de Luis Victoria’s O Quam Gloriosum and the arrangement of Bohemian Rhapsody from TMVC which preceded it. Both were excellent in their own way. The Victoria beautifully performed and evoking an authentic contemplative mystical feeling even further enhanced by the surroundings of gothic stonework tracery and the magnificent Hunstone wood carvings ... and TMVC’s Bohemian Rhapsody? Well, it was simply – rhapsodic!
Abbeydale treated the audience to a historical exploration of religious choral masterpieces in a thoughtfully constructed programme finishing their first selection almost up to date, with Durufleé’s Notre Père.
This is a fine choir, with a well balanced ensemble – each section assuming responsibility for its own contribution and never over-singing and eclipsing neighbouring parts. All the pieces were sung a capella, in contrast to TMVC who had the benefit of Christopher Ellis’s masterly accompaniment.
The “Men” were doubtless conscious of performing to their own dedicated Tideswell followers and inspired by the larger-than-life personality of maestro Dennis Kay. They gave a superb second half, provoking not a few tears in poignant renderings of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother and Two Little Boys. Nineteen-year-old Phil Rigley (baritone) was equally poignant in his moving interpretation of My Father. We wish him well as he leaves TMVC for a while and embarks on his Oxford University studentship.
There was more than a hint of sea breeze around the venerable masonry of St John the Baptist church as Abbeydale delivered their final selection. Bobby Shaftoe made more than one appearance, and there were a risqué Mermaid (or rather a Mermai-id) and an intoxicating arrangement of Drunken Sailor, all sung with nautical panache.
The audience demanded more and Abbeydale metamorphosed themselves into authentic early instruments such as crumphorns and sackbuts and whatever other improbable antiques might have featured in the piece by Henry VIII which they chose to delight us with.
TMVC’s president, Edwina Currie (that doyenne of the after-occasion speech), rounded off the end of the evening with an effusive thank-you to all concerned. Well, not quite the end, as there was much exchange of Yorkshire and Derbyshire musical “wisdom” in the nearby George Hotel until late that memorable night.
Updated 11 October 2013