Over the past few months Betws Community Choir, facilitated by our amazing facilitator Laura Bradshaw, has really developed in its independence, creating their own sense of direction as well as supporting the celebrations and charities of different groups of people.
We set up Betws Community Choir several years ago, as a small creative project for our village as part of the Top of the Mountain Project. Top of the Mountain was Community Arts for Development Project for Betws in the Garw Valley, part-funded through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 which was financed by the European Union and the Welsh Assembly Government, and was also supported by The Arts Council of Wales and Bridgend County Borough Council. Our Top of the Mountain project offered creative opportunities which successfully brought the community together through participation, and the community choir that we formed then has continued to thrive as one of our most successful local Community Arts projects in our area.
Our project facilitator Laura Bradshaw tells us about the recent activities of this vibrant community group:
“The choir has always wanted to perform their own concert in St David’s Church in Betws, where the project initially started, and have enjoyed some small-scale ‘sharing’ events, singing and eating together, as well as regular singing workshops there. They recently decided that it would be a nice challenge to actually put on a concert and invite the general public to it. Many preparations were made in advance – finding out if the church was available and if they would allow us to use it for a choir fundraising concert, creating a publicity poster (made by choir member Katie), arranging a raffle (organised by Susan and her wonderful sister), inviting acts to support them (including choir member Shaun and his gigging band The Villagers), as well as another choir members’ grandson joining the group for the event (David Rees), who was fresh from singing as part of a Young Farmers event at Barry Memorial Hall.
Every choir member had helpful and positive suggestions that really helped to shape the event, and we had a really good-sized audience. The choir opened the night with the fun Welsh song ‘Oes Gafr eto’ then sung a favourite ‘Ar Lan y Mor’, followed by ‘Let the River Run Free’, created by the choir with words by Kate Duhig, music by Laura and Welsh translation by choir member Neil Williams. ‘The Villagers’ then performed, a stunning 3 piece band with lead vocals by Cajon and percussion with our choir member Shaun on vocal harmonies and guitar. They were very lively indeed, incorporating lots of pop classics into their set and getting the audience and choir to sing and clap along. David Rees performed some very beautiful and calm ballads for us. Each act did another set, Katie did a lovely solo supported by Shaun on the guitar and we ended the evening with us all singing ‘Calon Lan’ and ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’. All the performers came to the front to sing with us. The feedback from the event was very positive and we raised well over £100. Thanks to everyone who sang, helped out, donated, made cakes or just came to listen. It was a very empowering event for the community development of the choir as it was them who made it happen – not me as tutor creating something for them to fit into. There is already talk of doing another next year!
Next came the WaterAid concert, a concert to raise funds for the charity WaterAid, who aim to help areas around the world who have no access to clean water to create safe wells and sanitation. The choir sang a lovely set on their own and then integrated themselves with 5 other Cardiff and Newport based choirs and a drumming group with several songs including the spectacular ending of ‘Perfect Day’ leading straight into ‘Shosholoza’ with instruments and singing galore. The event raised almost £1000!
The very next day the choir sang at a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) event in Bridgend town centre which was to celebrate the fact that gay marriage has become legal. We were joined by some Cardiff singing friends from the Cardiff Canton Singers, and sang a variety of songs from our set plus some appropriate songs for the occasion – ‘Goin’ to the Chapel’, ‘Born this Way’, and ‘Give a Little Respect’ … The parade participants and supporters joined in with the songs they knew and it was a very joyous occasion!”