AUSTRALIA
March 13 - April 4 2004


The hugely successful third tour of Australia marked another highlight in the history of the Treorchy Male Choir. For more than a year choristers waited anxiously for the opportunity to journey “down under” while Choir officials worked diligently to ensure a first-class tour. Those efforts were certainly rewarded when the choir walked on stage for the first of 18 concerts. The venue was Perth Concert Hall. The audience filled the auditorium to capacity. As the conductor Andrew Badham stepped onto the platform, the first bars of "Cwm Rhondda" began, and so too a priceless moment in the history of the Treorchy Male Choir. Undoubtedly that glorious sound of the first applause echoed through every auditorium and through the minds of each chorister fortunate enough to play a part in probably the Choir’s finest overseas tour to date. It was, quite simply, magnificent.


 
The three-week tour of Australia was organised by International Concert Attractions, a Melbourne-based promotional company who set the highest possible standards of professionalism. It was something of a tall order, hoping to fill each of the auditoriums with tickets sales averaging £35 each and the concert halls themselves boasting sometimes 1,500 or even 2,500 seats. The work, however, most certainly proved fruitful as the Choir performed before many packed audiences and near capacity-filled halls throughout the visit. In all, choristers entertained somewhere in the region of 19,000 people.

Snow had descended on the country just a few days before the planned departure from Wales. The thought of hiring snow-ploughs to get us all to Heathrow had already been discussed! It
was late on Friday night many choristers braved the snow and ice-covered roads on the journey to Treherbert. It was close to midnight when they reached The Bute Hotel in preparation for the first coach at 3.45am, arriving at Heathrow Airport for 8am and departing on Singapore Airlines Flight SQ317 on the long 12hour journey (5185 miles) to Changi Airport in Singapore before boarding another plane heading to the Western Australian coast and the city of Perth, a total of 2,140 miles away.

On arrival at Perth International Airport the choristers met members of ICA, including executive producer Lester McGrath, production manager Richard Dinnen and Toni Rudov who would manage the tour, and headed to the Waldorf Mounts Bay Waters Hotel.

Armed with the new Tour Book, highlighting every detail of the trip, choristers enjoyed a relaxing evening on the dockside’s Lucky Shag Bar before venturing to North Ridge to the Elephant and Wheelbarrow pub. On the following morning choristers enjoyed the sights of Hay Street, the main shopping centre before preparing for the evening concert at Perth Concert Hall. Overlooking the tranquil waters of the Swan River, Perth Concert Hall, opened in 1973, is revered throughout Australia for its fine acoustics. Adding to the appeal of the magnificent auditorium is a specially-commissioned 3000-pipe organ. The opening concert, filled with energy, excitement and sheer professionalism, was quite magnificent. The publicity agents have called Treorchy the "Rolls Royce of Choirs". Tonight they certainly achieved that status.

 

Before the concert began the Choir settled in the Green Room, an air of nervousness spreading throughout the silence as they prepared to face an audience of 1,500, armed with Welsh flags, red rugby jerseys and a passion for their homeland. The response, each and every time, was priceless. .


 
Janice Ball accompanied the Choir on both piano and organ during the tour, while Assistant Accompanist Helen Roberts also played the piano in several venues. Deputy Conductor Edgar Taylor conducted several items also and the soprano soloists for the tour were Ros Evans and Eloise Routledge. Tenor soloist Dean Powell was given the unenviable task of being made compere for the entire tour. Later at the Waldorf Hotel, Lester McGrath congratulated the Choir on its performance and he went to the bar, placed his credit card in the hands of the barman and allowed choristers free drinks to the price of $2,000.

Another relaxing day lay ahead for the choristers who were given the opportunity to enjoy all the sights and sounds of Perth. Many enjoyed the delights of the city, while others ventured on board one of the Captain Cook cruisers - or even took the train - for an hour-long cruise to neighbouring Freemantle. Another 1,200 people welcomed the Choir on stage at Perth Concert Hall that night and the choristers certainly gave them another outstanding concert to remember, resulting in a standing ovation until every last man walked off stage in regimental fashion.

On Wednesday choristers had another free day to wander the centre of Perth, some enjoying the breathtaking venues at King’s Park and walking the 259 steps of Jacob’s Ladder. At 5pm they boarded the coaches for the 90 mile-drive to Mandurah, a beautiful resort with fine waterways, beaches and marina.

On reaching Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, choristers were overwhelmed by the beauty of the hall and its lakeside views and in this setting gave another outstanding concert, complete with two encores following demands by the 775 spectators.

 

Rising at 4.30am the choristers made their way to Perth International Airport for the four hour Qantas flight to Melbourne. Crossing the Yarra river choristers stopped outside the Sheraton Travelodge, their hotel for the next few nights. Then it was an hour-long journey of 50 miles to Frankston - another return after five years!  On reaching the Frankston Arts Centre they were greeted by members of the Australian Welsh Male Choir. The Treorchy choristers gave a full, entertaining concert of the highest order to the 668 people who attended. Following the event the President of the Australian Welsh Male Choir, Phil Judd, made a presentation of a choir tie and blazer badge to Treorchy President, Brian Bates. Dressed in the new green polo shirts with grey trousers, this uniformed group of Welshmen headed to the Shakespeare Tavern just a few steps from the theatre.


  A free day in Melbourne on Friday March 19th allowed choristers the opportunity to venture into the city and enjoy the many sights and sounds surrounding them. Choristers walked the busy seats, gazing on the Arts Centre, Herald Newspaper Office, Flinder’s Street and over the Yarra River to visit Bourne and Swanson Streets. At 4.45pm they departed Southbank for the 90 mile journey to Geelong, arriving at the Ford Theatre on Little Malop Street at 6.30pm. It was a very impressive theatre and the audience gave them a tremendously warm welcome as they marched, single file onto the large stage and the concert began. The audience seemed overjoyed, with
rapturous applause and plenty of laughter. Following the concert many choristers headed back to the hotel where it was time for a very quick change into casual clothes and a taxi ride to the nearby Crown Casino. Another free day in Melbourne before departing the hotel at 5.45pm for the Robert Blackwood Hall at Monash University in Clayton, 30 miles away. An audience of 735 were there to greet the Choir and from the very outset were appreciative of another memorable performance.

A performance at the Melbourne Concert Hall in the river-side Arts Centre complex was always going to be one of the major concerts of the entire tour. On the one hand it was the first time the choir had actually performed in this particular auditorium since their 1986 tour. Secondly, it was an important event because the audience would consist of the hierachy of ICA, including Lester McGrath and Andrew Kay. It’s hard to describe the performance, except in superlatives, but suffice to say the Choir was spellbinding throughout. The audience of 1,168, were splendid in their response, the overall effect breathtaking. From the very first note it was obvious the choir, awesome in its performance, was at its very best. It was the performance of "We’ll Keep a Welcome", so far from the shores of their homeland - particularly on Mothering Sunday - that affected choristers the most.

The Choir gathered in an Irish bar called O’Briens, overlooking the Yarra for the evening party. The Guinness and Kilkenny flowed like torrents over the thirsty choristers as the party-atmosphere prevailed. A section of the bar had been specially divided exclusively for the Choir, while the next section was reserved for none other than Lisa Marie Presley, her mother Priscilla and their entourage of bodyguards, musicians and guests.

The Choir decided they had to entertain the rock ‘n’ roll royalty. "Muss I Denn", the German version of "Wooden Heart" from Elvis’s "G.I. Blues", seemed appropriate. Follow that with "Love is a Many Splendoured Thing", and suddenly Lisa Marie was standing on the chair waving, clapping and even conducting!
 

A free day in Melbourne saw many choristers visit the mighty Rialto Tower, the 16th highest free-standing tower in the world - a full 823ft high. Some realised this was hardly a good idea given the hangovers caused by the night before! At 6am on Tuesday March 23rd the Choir was transported to Melbourne Airport to board the 10am Qantas flight QF612 - headed for Brisbane 860 miles away. A few hours later the group was transported 60 miles north to Caloundra. Another destination, another state. This time - Queensland.

This beautiful area was home to the plush Rydges Oasis Resort, the accommodation for the night, which included a lovely restaurant overlooking extensive lily-ponds, swimming pools, golf courses and the beach. It was quite a distance to walk from the resort to the theatre in the centre of Caloundra, so many of opted for a taxi ride instead. It was a good move, since the heavens opened and heavy rain drenched many of the suit-wearing choristers en route. The concert hall at Caloundra Cultural Centre was large and impressive. The concert was a total success. The audience of 882 were very appreciative and a resounding standing ovation brought the performance to its finale.


 
On Wednesday the Choir travelled south to Brisbane, settling into the luxurious Rydges South Bank Hotel, before enjoying an afternoon stroll into the centre of the city. At 8pm they met at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on the river. With 1,400 people filling the auditorium it was a wonderful concert to remember. The crowd were ecstatic, waving Welsh flags, shouting aloud at times. The Concert Hall is one of Australia's most spectacular venues. The magnificent architecture and acoustics work to deliver a truly memorable performance. Towering above the stage, the Klais Grand Organ, with its impressive array of 6,500 pipes, forms the central architectural focus of the space. Accompanist Jan Ball was in her element.

A free day greeted the choristers, allowing them the ideal opportunity to enjoy all that Brisbane had to offer. Many enjoyed the long walk back to the Brisbane River, where choristers followed the riverbank a
while until they reached a beautiful man-made lagoon called South Bank. It was hardly surprising to see many of the choristers either diving into the deep blue waters or relaxing on the white sandy beach underneath the swaying palm trees. The more adventurous choristers visited Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo to enjoy viewing all 750 animals in 50 acres of land. A second concert was held in QPAC at 8pm, with 500 ecstatic members of the audience cheering loudly and rewarding the Choir with another standing ovation.

Friday March 26th was a free day, so choristers caught the Cat Boat for a voyage all the way along the Brisbane River, travelling from South Bank past the botanic gardens, to Mowbrey Park and all the way to Bretts Wharf. At 6.30pm a group of almost thirty choristers caught a succession of cars and small buses to a house about 20 minutes out of town. It belonged to chorister Ceri Rees’s daughter Jackie and her doctor husband David. Along with some of their neighbours, friends and family, they held a banquet of a barbeque. The spread was tremendous with masses of food cooked and literally barrels of beer and lager cans stocked with ice for all to enjoy.


Eventually it was time to wave goodbye to Brisbane and head to the next destination just 75 miles away, the affluent town of Toowoomba. As Queensland’s Garden City, it’s obvious why it gets such a reputation. The extensive parklands and flower displays were a tremendous sight to behold. At 6.30pm the Choir was transported to the Empire Theatre - a perfect example of art deco at its very best.

Following rehearsals it was time to venture to a private conference room upstairs in the theatre to meet members of the Rangerville State School Boys Voices and their conductor Brett Gredig. Another triumph lay ahead. By the end of the concert the Choir left the stage assured they had done their utmost to entertain the crowd of 1,145 people at Toowoomba. The choir met in the Sports Club Casino on the high street

 
for a few evening drinks. Also present were Barbara and Paul Harwood who’d travelled 900 miles in eight hours from Rockhampton to hear the Choir perform. Last year they came to the concert in Llantwit Major!

On Sunday choristers boarded the coaches at 9am for the two-and-a-half hour journey of 113 miles to the Brisbane area before reaching the coast and travelling to the beautiful Surfer’s Paradise. With little opportunity to enjoy the beach, choristers were back on the coaches by 3.15pm and headed for the Gold Coast Arts Centre, filled with galleries, restaurants, bars and the main concert hall where the performance would be held. The evening concert was excellent, as reflected in the excitement of the very appreciative audience of 938. Afterwards it was back to the hotel and then to embark on a pub-crawl with a large group of choristers to the Mulligans bar, the RSL Club and finally to Gullharvey’s Irish Bar.

At 9am on Monday the Choir travelled 238 miles towards Coffs Harbour - about half way between Brisbane and Sydney. It was a long drive ahead, mostly along coastal roads with a brief stop in Jenny Park. With little to do in the relatively quiet and small Coffs Harbour, choristers met at a local Irish bar. Within an hour almost the entire Choir was inside. It was a very enjoyable afternoon indeed. With most of the following day free choristers boarded the coaches for a tour of the main harbour. With a return to the motel at 6.15pm the singers walked to Coffs Harbour Ex Services Club. This huge casino-type entertainment centre must be the heart of the entire community, with its restaurants, bars, shops and concert hall. The packed audience of 379 people appeared delighted with the performance.


 
With a 6.30am departure, the Choir travelled 245 miles to Newcastle, the former coal mining town. At 6pm choristers reached the glorious Civic Theatre.  Once inside this gorgeous old auditorium, complete with gold balconies, plush red carpets and seats and an inspiring dome-like ceiling with its glorious chandelier, the Choir gave its evening concert for the 909 spectators, who rewarded the men with a standing ovation.

On the following morning , the choristers travelled three hours south to Sydney, crossing over the famous Harbour Bridge and catching the first view of the Opera House – the world-famous venue for the choir’s concert in the city.  Choristers settled into the five star Vibe Hotel at Rushcutters Bay, unpacked uniforms and relaxed in the plush contemporary-style suites, before exploring this wonderful city. At the
Opera House it was a delight to come face to face with a five foot high poster of the choir alongside some of the world’s top celebrities, advertising the concert.

The coaches departed at 5pm for the Hills Centre for the Performing Arts in Castle Hills 170 miles away. What greeted the Choir was a tremendous concert hall and a capacity audience. With flags flying from the balconies on either side and a great feeling of warmth with the audience, filled with 1,341 people, it was a concert to remember. It was also an added bonus that two of the choir’s Honorary Members who helped organise the first tour of Australia, Brian Anstee and James Kelso, were both present.

The following evening the Choir travelled to the Sydney Opera House for an official choir photograph on the main steps.  The shoot saw the Choir give an impromptu performance of "Men of Harlech", much to the delight of a mass of tourists who gathered below, and armed with video cameras. Then it was time for rehearsals in the magnificent concert hall. The mass of red, from seats, carpets to ceiling, was totally overwhelming. The sheer size of the seating area, the magnitude of the stage and organ, the mass of lights, speakers and microphones was awe-inspiring.

The concert was a pivotal moment in the history of the Treorchy Male Choir. It was a truly emotional, awesome and overwhelming experience. The audience of 1,500, ecstatic.

The Choir was superb and sang their hearts out to the loving audience which included Honorary Member Harold Woody who’d travelled from Toronto, Canada, along with Linde Macpherson of the first Australian Tour.

Never before had they heard an audience break into applause mid-way through "Fantasia on Famous Welsh Airs" as they reached the "Men of Harlech" section. It was truly breathtaking and the concert continued in the same vein for the duration of the evening.

 

Each item resulted in a tumultuous response. It took two encores and national anthems before they could leave the stage. It was an incredibly emotional moment for the choristers, and with the opening bars of "We’ll Keep a Welcome" tears flowed on an off stage. Celebrations were held on the banks of Sydney Harbour admiring the illuminated bridge and Opera House. Magic!


 

On the following morning the Choir headed to Wollongong over 370 miles away and reached the Town Hall with its marvellous acoustics in a first-class concert hall. The capacity audience of 734 were astounding. How can you get a packed hall on a Saturday afternoon! But Treorchy did and the crowd showed their appreciation throughout the entire performance.

The Choir really gave a magnificent concert and this was reflected in the fact they received a standing ovation. Afterwards choristers were rushed to the airport, 50 miles away and faced a five-hour flight of 2,045 miles, on Qantas QF583 to Perth International Airport, relaxing in the Waldorf Hotel.

On Sunday April 4th the Choir gave an afternoon performance in the magnificent concert hall – the last concert of the tour. It was another full house and a wonderful response from the moment the first chorister stepped onto the stage. It was always bound to be a tearjerker of a concert of course. Once more the Choir burst into song filled with emotion, passion and pride.

Choristers were escorted to South Perth Bowling Club as guests of the Perth Welsh Society who entertained the Choir with free drinks and a huge spread of food. Roger Morse gave a series of speeches and presentations to the likes of Lester McGrath, Frederick O’Brien, Dean Powell and all those involved in the Welsh Society. The society chairman presented Dean Powell with some bara brith and gave the Choir a polished clock.  On the following morning it was time to depart for the airport and bid a fond farewell once more to Australia. The tour was over, but the memories would last forever.

Press Reports

“The 65 voices blend into a balm for the soul, with just the occasional hymn or opera chorus to stir the blood a little. One gets the feeling these mostly middle-aged to elderly men had adopted subtlety and restraint as a policy in unison singing, content to let the waves of sound wash over the audience rather than mount a full frontal aural assault. As a result Treorchy’s sound is velvety smooth, filling the auditorium without overwhelming it.

“It’s mostly music of a sentimental nature, but projected with a celebratory quality and sense of humour that will no doubt go down well on the Choir’s third major tour of Australia. Treorchy is one of
the flagship choirs to have fashioned the image of Wales as the land of song. There’s no problem of tone deafness with these men, as they confirm what we’ve already known – that Welsh choirs are among the best in the world.”
Ron Banks, Perth Concert Hall

“Being described as the “Rolls Royce of Welsh male choirs” is an awesome responsibility and the Treorchy Male Choir certainly lived up to this compliment. This Choir is a model of precision. The Treorchy forte is its range of dynamics, its ability to slide swiftly and smoothly from pianissimo to full throttle to release a storm of powerful sound as the throats pour out the vocal richness, just as Welsh coalminers did as they sang their way to work in the dark pits.”
Patricia Kelly, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane

Concert List

March 15         Perth Concert Hall

March 16         Perth Concert Hall

March 17         Mandurah Performing Arts Centre

March 18         Frankston Arts Centre

March 19         Ford Theatre, Geelong

March 20         Robert Blackwood Concert Hall, Clayton

March 21         Melbourne Concert Hall

March 23         Caloundra Cultural Centre

March 24         QPAC, Brisbane

March 25         QPAC, Brisbane

March 27         Empire Theatre, Toowomba

March 28         Gold Coast Performing Arts Centre

March 30         Coffs Ex Services Club, Coffs Harbour

March 31         Newcastle Civic Theatre

April 1              The Hills Centre, Castle Hills

April 2              Sydney Opera House

April 3              Wollongong Town Hall

April 4              Perth Concert Hall



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