It was a weekend of double delight for Portadown Male Voice Choir – a sublime annual concert and another international festival triumph.
On Thursday night, a packed Civic Centre thrilled to the mellifluous voice of Welsh tenor Rhys Meirion, an opera star on the world scene, who tailored his programme to suit one of Portadown’s most prestigious concerts.
And the choir took first place in the male voice section of Bangor International Festival on Saturday, following it up with a runners-up spot in the sacred music section, pipped by a choir from North Wales.
Firstly the concert, and the town can be proud of the way Rhys Meirion was accompanied by one of the area’s leading pianists, Rodney Spence, renowned in several facets of music in County Armagh and beyond.
Meirion’s gentle presence on stage helped make it one of the best of the 88 annual concerts staged by the choir – especially his renditions of the ever-popular ‘Danny Boy’ and the Welsh classic ‘Myfanwy’.
The Welshman said, “I’m delighted at the warm welcome I received from such a knowledgeable audience. Rodney was a real rock, and I enjoyed singing the Welsh hymn Morte Criste (When I survey) with the choir. They’re on par with the best of the Welsh male voice choirs!”
The compere was the incomparable Joe Causley, comedian extraordinaire, who held things together superbly.
The choir, under musical director Gordon Speers and accompanist Steven Bell, was its usual inspired self, singing seasoned favourites like ‘Speed Your Journey’, a selection from ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, a couple of modern pieces and two Latin classic – ‘Exsultate Justi’ by Viadana and ‘Domine Non Sum Dignus’ by Victoria.
The two Latin pieces elevated them to the number two spot in the Bangor sacred section and they emerged as best male voice choir with the sea shanty ‘A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea’ by CH Lloyd, coupled with ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables.
Said Gordon Speers, “It was indeed an inspiring and successful two days – a pleasing milestone in the choir’s history. I’m delighted how the concert programme was received by the audience, and I thank the choir for all the hard work they put in. Rhys Meirion was magnificent.”