The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfodattracts some of the best choirs, dancers and performers from all over the world. A selection of 2012’s best Commonwealth performers were invited to perform in The Commonwealth Carnival of Music at Westminster Hall, including choirs from Canada, South Africa and Australia and a dance troupe from India.
In addition, others who were invited to complete the line-up included the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra, Ngāti Rānana Maori Choirwho brought the Haka to Westminster, a Welsh Male Voice Choirand The Watoto Children’s Choir(an award winning and inspirational choir from a programme in Uganda which cares for orphaned children.) There was also be a rare opportunity to see The Parliament Choir whose members include Lords, MPs and other members of Westminster Staff.
Entertaining the audience on stages around the hall during the afternoon before the formal concert in our Croeso Carnival (Welcome Carnival) were BT Melodians Steel Orchestra, The Abraham Darby School Showband from Telford and The Hartley Morris Dancers.
Our Carnival hosts were Baroness Floella Benjamin, TV Presenter, Huw Edwards and Bite The Ballot’s Michael Sani. The official proceedings were heralded by a lone bag-piper, from the Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish Regiment and a special letter of best wishes from HHR Prince Charles was read by Lord Alan Watson of Richmond.
We are grateful to all the performers and volunteers who generously gave their time to make this such a memorable day. Thanks also go to Barrie Neil Photography and Ben Rogers for photographs of the event.
Please contact us if you wish to use any of the photographs found on our website and gallery.
Baroness Floella Benjamin, OBE, was born in Trinidad in 1949 and came to England as a 10 year old child in 1960. She left school at 16 with the aim of becoming Britain's first ever black woman bank manager but changed direction and became an actress, presenter, writer, independent producer, working peer and an active advocate for the welfare, care and education of children throughout the world. She became a household name as presenter of the legendary children’s programmes, Playschool and Playaway.
Floella’s broadcasting work has been recognised with a Special Lifetime Achievement BAFTA and an OBE. She has written over 30 books including Coming to England, which is used as a resource in schools in social and cross-curricular areas.
Floella is also President of the Elizabeth 'R' Commonwealth Broadcasting Fund, a Governor of the National Film & Television School as well as a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London. She was elevated to the peerage as Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham, in 2010.
Huw Edwards is an award winning journalist, presenter and newsreader. Currently anchorman of the BBC Ten O'Clock News, he began his career as a reporter for local radio station Swansea Sound. By 1986 he had become a political reporter for BBC Wales, later rising to the position of chief parliamentary reporter for BBC News, a role which regularly brought him here to Westminster to report across a range of BBC programmes.
Born and brought up in Wales, Huw is passionate about the use of its beautiful language both at home and in his work. This passion was reflected in The Story of Welsh, which won him a Bafta Cymru Award for Best On screen Presenter. As one of Britain’s most respected presenters, Huw Edwards also has the honour of being the face or voice of the BBC at many prestigious national events, including the Festival of Remembrance, Trooping of the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament and The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
Huw has the pleasure of being able to introduce two choirs to which he has very close connections. He became President of Cor Meibion Gwalia in 2005, and was appointed President of The London Welsh Male Voice Choir earlier this year.
Michael Sani is the co-founder of the grass roots youth engagement campaign, Bite the Ballot. It was whilst spreading the word of the campaign and its aims of inspiring everyday young people to play a role in democracy that Michael met Lord Roberts. The two quickly developed a working relationship and friendship and have enjoyed making politics accessible to many young people across England and Wales.
Michael was delighted to be offered the chance to help develop Lord Roberts’s vision for the Commonwealth Carnival and is honored to be one of your hosts. For him, the carnival is a way of uniting the public with one of the most amazing buildings in the world and he hope this is spoken about for many years to come.
Lord Alan Watson of Richmond CBE
Lord Alan Watson, Chairman of the Council of Commonwealth Societies, thanks the organisers, performers and ponsors and reads a special letter of best wishes for the Commonwealth Carnival of Music from HRH Prince Charles.
The Abraham Darby Academy Showband
The Abraham Darby Academy Showband was formed over 30 years ago and is a culmination of the three other senior bands (Brass Band, Jazz Band & Senior Woodwind Ensemble) that are part of the Abraham Darby Academy Music Department.
The band has enjoyed unparalleled success in the Concert Band Sections of the National Festival of Music for Youth and the National Concert Band Festival of Great Britain, winning 17 National and 5 international awards since 1998.One of the band’s most recent highlights was the performance given at Carnegie Hall, New York in March 2007.
They were the only non-American band participating and came away with a Gold Award. As a result of this, and other successes since, they were invited to perform again in Carnegie Hall in March 2010. The band played a 45 minute programme of concert band repertoire as part of the Showcase Concert in the New York Wind Band Festival and received four standing ovations! The Showband’s success continued in 2012 with a Platinum Award at the finals of the National Concert Band Festival held at the Royal Academy of Music in March.
The Abraham Darby Academy Showband is led by their Musical Director, the Academy’s Head of Music, Rachel Morton.
Formed in September 1987 by Terry Noel, the award winning Melodians Steel Orchestra has provided opportunities for young people from varied social and racial backgrounds to develop musical skills, techniques and a wide repertoire that includes classical, modern, calypso, pop and jazz compositions. The London based group have performed several times at the Commonwealth Day Service in Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace Garden.
The Melodians are the first steel orchestra to receive a Performing Rights Society Enterprise Award, a Royal Anniversary Challenge Award, and a BT Innovation Award but perhaps the highest accolade of all came when The Royal Chartered Borough of Arima in Trinidad recognised Terry’s contribution to the spread of steelband music around the world by naming a street after him.
In February 2012,the orchestra performed their piece Acirema from their Adopt a Composer Award live on BBC Radio 3. Melodians Steel Orchestra is well respected internationally too, having taken its distinctive sound to several countries, including a special performance for the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, an appearance at The Singapore Festival of Arts and various events in Malta, Turkey, France, Dubai, Quatar, Lebanon, Poland, Austria, Russia, Morocco, Belgium, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, North Korea, India, and of course, Trinidad & Tobago.
They can proudly claim to be the most traveled steel orchestra in the world.
The Hartley Morris Men were formed in 1952 in Hartley near Dartford, North Kent, but have been based in the nearby village of Wrotham for the last 34 years. Like Her Majesty The Queen, they too are celebrating their Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
The dances they perform are in the Cotswold Style having been collected from traditional dances in villages around the Oxford area. They are a full member of The Morris Ring, the association of men’s Morris sides. This year, to mark their 60th Anniversary, they will be hosting the 334th meeting of The Morris Ring in Wrotham.
As well as the dancers, a Morris side has a collection of characters. Hartley Morris has a horse, which is based upon a Kentish Hooded Horse. There is also a fool who dances solo jigs and occasionally keeps the dancers in order, a cake bearer in a tatter coat, who dispenses the cake on May Day morning, and the collector, who boosts the side’s coffers and enables them to help local charities by inviting the audience to “partake of the good luck of the Morris by putting coins of the realm into his receptacle”.
The Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish Regiment
The Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish Regiment are represented today by Lance Cpl Andy Parsons.Formed in the year 1860, the band is proud of its long and unique history. It celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010 and is one of the five oldest pipe bands in the world. The band also holds the distinction of being the oldest volunteer pipe band in the world, the oldest pipe band in the world still wearing the uniform of its inception, and the oldest pipe band in the world outside the regular British Army. The current band consists of a mixture of civilians, serving Territorial Army and former regular army or TA members.
The Pipes and Drums undertake many formal military duties for and on behalf of The Regiment throughout the year, including high profile events such as Beating Retreat on Horseguards Parade, The Windsor Military Tattoo, The Royal Caledonian Ball and The Lord Mayor’s Show. They have also been on tours to France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Holland, Italy and Gibraltar. On top of their official military duties, The Pipes and Drums have appeared in stage plays and feature films such as Tunes of Glory and The Longest Day and can be spotted in any number of television and radio programmes, TV commercials or press advertisements. There is no requirement to be of Scottish descent to join the band.
Lance Cpl Andy Parsons was himself born in Newfoundland, Canada and has been a member of the Territorial Army here in the UK for 16 years. When not acting as Pipe Sergeant of The Pipes and Drums, Andy is the Recruiting NCO for A (The London Scottish Company) The London Regiment.
Andy appears today by kind permission of Colonel D Rankin-Hunt, LVO, MBE, TD, Regimental Colonel of The London Scottish Regiment.
Ngati Ranana London Maori Club
In the late 1950s, a small group of New Zealanders living in London formed the London Māori Club and through the performance of traditional waiata and haka, began to promote the uniqueness of Māori. In 1971, the club was renamed the Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club. Ngāti, the Māori word for tribe, and Rānana the Māori transliteration of the word London.
The group went from strength to strength. Today Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club aims to provide New Zealanders residing in the United Kingdom and others interested in Māori culture, with an environment in which they can learn, ractice and share knowledge of the traditional Māori performing arts – promoting both Māori culture and an understanding of Aotearoa (New Zealand) as whole.
The three guiding principles of Ngāti Rānana are whanaungatanga (togetherness), manaakitanga (hospitality and looking after one another) and kōtahitanga (unity).
As well as club nights and performances, Ngāti Rānana holds weekend wananga (extended training - learning sessions) and various social events throughout the year.
Membership of The Parliament Choir is open to all who work in the Palace of Westminster – MPs, Peers and members of staff in either House. The choir was founded in 2000 following a discussion between Lord Filkin and Simon Over (then Director of Music at St Margaret’s Westminster) about the difficulty of belonging to a choir when working the irregular hours and fulfilling the responsibilities a career in Parliament demands.
The choir now holds weekly rehearsals in St Mary Undercroft (the chapel within the Palace of Westminster) during parliamentary sessions, which allows MPs and Peers to leave rehearsals at the sound of the division bell in order to vote. Under the inspirational guidance of Music Director, Simon Over, who is also Music Director of the fabulous Southbank Sinfonia, and Chorus Master, Nicholas O’Neill, The Parliament Choir has developed and grown.
The choir’s repertoire has been wide-ranging and ambitious, including an Opera Gala, Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Lobgesang, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Elgar’s Apostles and Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass – in Czech! It has also performed several works composed for the choir by its Chorus Master Nicholas O’Neill, the first Composer-in-Residence at the Palace of Westminster since the time of Henry VIII.
The choir has been fortunate to sing with some exceptional guest soloists,including Sir Thomas Allen (the choir’s patron) and Dame Felicity Lott, and has collaborated on larger works with other choirs, including The St. Michael’s Singers from Coventry and, in April 2012, The Choir of the National Assembly of South Korea.
Trumpet: Raffaele Chieli | Piano: Nicholas O’Neill | Conductor: Simon Over
Midlands Youth Choir of South Africa
Midlands Youth Choir of South Africa was founded in 2007 when its founder Rykie Boeke recognised the need for a place to which children could graduate once they had outgrown The Pietermaritzburg Children’s Choir (PMBCC).
Patrick Harty subsequently took over the role of Choir Conductor in 2010, and was succeeded by William Silk in 2011. Choristers are drawn from a broad spectrum of schools in the Pietermatitzburg district bringing with them an equally wide range of musical influences and talents, making for a diverse and interesting mix. Current membership stands at 65, welcoming students from 14 local schools.
The choir strives through its membership to be fully representative of the new South Africa. Children and young people are given the opportunity to expand their musical horizons through singing music more challenging than any they might ordinarily encounter in their individual school choirs. The repertoire embraces the Western and Southern African choral traditions in particular, but also showcases music from other parts of the world.
The over-riding aspiration of the Midlands Youth Choir is to make singing fun and their accomplished performances are a wonderful testament to their talent and enthusiasm. William Silk has conducted numerous choirs including The South African National Youth Choir and the internationally renowned NKZN Youth Choir with which he received a first place at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
William’s goal is to educate the youth of South Africa and the world through choral music. He believes that music is a language in which everyone can speak, and is one of the basic tools which can be used to bring all nations together.
Soloists of the The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir embodies the Commonwealth 2012 Theme Connecting Cultures by bringing together musicians of the 54 Countries of the Commonwealth, uniting them in the pursuit of musical excellence whilst transcending all cultural, political, social and economic boundaries. Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, honours the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir as its Diamond Jubilee Patron 2012.
The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir regularly performs at highly prestigious events, including a 100th anniversary of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association reception for The Speakers of Commonwealth countries in Speaker’s House, Palace of Westminster, and in the Royal Gallery, House of Lords, following the Diamond Jubilee Address for HM The Queen.
Recently the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra made Palace of Westminster history by being the first musicians ever to perform in the Robing Room.
At the Carnival, The Soloists of the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra, conducted by its Artistic Director and Composer in Residence, Paul Carroll, perform the world premiere of The Westminster Overture, especially composed for this concert .
The work’s unique line-up, designed specifically for Westminster Hall, comprises 3 trumpets, tenor trombone, bass trombone, tuba, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons and 2 contra bassoons.
Watoto Children’s Choir 52
Watoto means ‘The Children’, and through their inspirational songs and compelling stories, Watoto Children’s Choirs are spreading a message of hope for Africa’s children. In 1992, Gary and Marilyn Skinner were moved with compassion concerning the critical orphan crisis in Uganda. As a result, Watoto Child Care Ministries was established as an outreach of Kampala Pentecostal Church, now called Watoto Church. Today, Watoto provides physical, emotional, educational and spiritual care for over 1,700 parentless children.
The goal of Watoto is to raise the next generation of Ugandan leaders by pursuing excellence in academic and practical skills, integrity in conduct and moral values, so that each child becomes a responsible and productive citizen. Since 1994, Watoto Children’s Choirs have toured internationally as ambassadors for orphan children in Uganda. ‘Concerts of Hope’ inform people of Watoto’s vital work and afford audiences the opportunity to participate in restoring hope and dignity to some of Africa’s most needy children.
Each child in the choir has experienced tremendous personal tragedy, having lost one or both parents in the African AIDS crisis or other calamities. Now, through their music and dance, audiences around the world witness the life transforming love of God experienced by the children of Watoto.
The choir’s music and multimedia presentation is a soulful fusion of gospel and contemporary African style. Dressed in colourful costume, the children’s enthusiastic song and energetic dance has moved audiences world-wide. In recent years Watoto Children’s Choirs have had the privilege of singing for Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace, in the Houses of Parliament, The White House in Washington, and also at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings in Kampala.
Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir
Founded as The Oriana Concert Choir in November 2005 by Musical Director, Daniel Calder, The Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir, is based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Australia. Oriana’s adult choir is an auditioned SATB (Soprano Alto Tenor Base) choir which presented its debut concert to a capacity audience in April 2006.
From humble beginnings, Oriana has grown from strength to strength and after outstanding performances at the Heritage Queensland Eisteddfod in 2009 and again in 2011, the choir was awarded Queensland Champion Choir status.
Following its Eisteddfod success of 2009, the choir was inspired to reach for the stars and the vision was conceived to tour Europe and the United Kingdom in 2012, with the intention of performing at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales. This dream is to become reality only a few days after the Commonwealth Carnival of Music. During the 2012 tour Oriana will also perform at St Paul’s Cathedral, St Martin in the Fields, Eglise St Merri and Eglise de la Madeleine in Paris, St Pieterskerk in Ypres and at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.
The Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir has undertaken a variety of challenging works and productions including Benjamin Britton’s Ceremony of Carols, Symphony ofPsalms by Stravinsky, Schubert’s Mass in G , Vivaldi’s Gloria and Mozart’s Requiem with the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra. Embracing all genres, the choir has also performed Sixties and Seventies Musical Revues, a Movies Music Revue and a Lounge, Swing and Jazz Concert. Musical Director, Daniel Calder, is acknowledged as one of Queensland’s leading choral conductors and he is in great demand as a choral clinician and adjudicator.
Currently studying opera at the acclaimed Royal College of Music, Britain’s exciting new soprano, Laura Wright won BBC Radio 2’s Chorister of the Year Award when she was just 15 years old and has gone on to sell over one million albums to date. One of the UK’s biggest-selling classical artists in 2011, she was the first female singer since Katherine Jenkins to reach Number One in the Classical Chart with her album, The Last Rose.
Laura, accompanied by the superb Reading Blue Coat School Chamber Choir, will perform “Stronger as One”, a new song specially written to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee by composer (and chairman of the reading Blue Coat School Parents’ Association) Robert Hartshorne.
This performance will reprise its prestigious premier of March this year, when Laura and the choir entertained representatives from all over the Commonwealth gathered for the 2012 Commonwealth Day Observance Service at Westminster Abbey. Stronger as One, again featuring Reading Blue Coat School Chamber Choir, also features on Laura’s album, Glorious, a collection of great British songs, old and new.
Beyond the Westminster Abbey, FA Cup Final and Dancing On Ice Final performances this year, Laura is proud to have performed for HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh more times than any other artist during the Jubilee. Laura has just completed a UK tour with acclaimed tenor Alfie Boe, was the first soprano to perform at the Olympic Stadium and joined Russell Watson on the Queen’s Jubilee Tour.
The Guelph Chamber Choir of Canada, founded in 1980, consists of talented amateur singers, most of whom have a formal music education, from a wide variety of occupations. With four or five concerts on its regular series, the choir’s repertoire ranges from Renaissance masters to newly commissioned works, from classical repertoire to Broadway, and from masterworks for choir and orchestra to choral gems for unaccompanied voices.
Over its thirty two-year history, the choir has won a number of prizes in the CBC National Competition for Amateur Choirs. Its discography includes six CDs.
The GCC performs regularly with period instrument accompaniment for works such as Handel’s Messiah, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610,Bach’s Mass in B minor and St. Matthew Passion, Mozart’s Requiem, and most recently, a Canadian premiere of the Brahms German Requiem with a period orchestra. Festival performances include The Toronto International Choral Festival, festivals in Salzburg and the Czech Republic, and the national Guelph Spring Festival. The GCC has toured in Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Holland, Germany, Sweden and Denmark and has been broadcast a number of times on CBC Radio.
Founding conductor, Gerald Neufeld, studied conducting in Canada, Germany and the USA (Doctor of Musical Arts degree). As a professor in the Faculty of Music, University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, he conducts choirs and teaches choral conducting at graduate and undergraduate level.
Choirs under his direction have all won prizes in the CBC National Competition for Amateur Choirs, and the UWO Singers and Thames Scholars have won three national awards for Best Post-Secondary Ensemble.
Gerald Neufeld has conducted much of the major choral/ orchestral repertoire, specializing in historically informed performance practices in early music and performing works with period instruments.
The Heritage Dancers are regarded as one of the most prestigious dance schools in the whole of India.
Led by Professor Rajpal Singh, a leading figure in Indian folk dancing, their mesmerizing performances have not only thrilled audiences throughout India, but also at many festivals and folk events around the world.
They have been travelling from the Pataia in the Punjab, to perform at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod for over twenty years, taking home trophies on a number of occasions.
Through their colourful and energetic performances, the adults and children of the group aim not only to win trophies, but also to share their passion and knowledge of all aspects of Indian Dance by showcasing their dazzling choreographed folk dance skills on the worldwide stage.
Gwalia and London Welsh Male Voice Choirs
Wales and the Welsh community in London is represented by the combined voices of Cor Meibion Gwalia and The London Welsh Male Voice Choir.
Led by Hadyn James | Accompanist: Anita Mary Downing
In its 45 year history, Cor Meibion Gwalia has been a prize winner at the Royal National Eisteddfod and the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, and has toured extensively throughout Europe. The choir records regularly on radio and television and has given concerts at venues throughout the United Kingdom, including St James’s Palace.
It has recorded with Shirley Bassey, Chris De Burgh and the late Harry Secombe and featured on the sound-track of the Hugh Grant movie The Englishman Who Went up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain.
The London Welsh Male Voice Choir has a prestigious reputation which extends beyond the United Kingdom, having also toured extensively in Europe, Canada and the USA. It has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Wembley Stadium, and in numerous cathedrals and concert halls in the UK.
It is organising the Wales Choir of The World at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday July 7th, featuring Bryn Terfel as soloist and 500 voices drawn from five continents around the world, and will host a Festival of Male Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall in October.
Dr Haydn James was Musical Director of the London Welsh Male Voice Choir for 30 years. He has performed in major concert halls across the world, and has directed massed choir festivals at the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera House.
As Musical Director for the Welsh Rugby Union, he has led the singing at more than 80 international games at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, as well as in France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Llangollen yn San Steffan - Llangollen comes to Westminster