Musical magic at debut as choir follow in footsteps of Military Wives

A new community choir from a housing estate made a “magical” debut conducted by royal composer Dr Paul Mealor who wrote the Military Wives’ hits.

The choir from Parc Peulwys and surrounding communities in Llysfaen, near Colwyn Bay, earned a rousing reception from the audience at the prestigious North Wales International Musical Festival, in St Asaph.

The sell-out concert at St Asaph Cathedral was an unforgettable experience for the choir – most of whom had never sung publicly before – that was made up of children and adults.

It was also a memorable occasion for the St Asaph-born conductor and composer, Dr Paul Mealor, who returned to the cathedral where he himself was a chorister as a boy.

Dr Mealor shot to world-wide fame thanks to the Royal wedding anthem he wrote for Prince William and Kate Middleton.

He also wrote the music for the Military Wives’ two chart topping hits, Wherever You Are and In Your Dreams, which were both sung by the Peulwys Community Choir.

The choir was the brainchild of Andrew Bowden, the Chief Executive of housing association Cartrefi Conwy, who have embarked on a £4 million improvement programme on the estate.

With the help of the festival’s Artistic Director Ann Atkinson, the dream became a reality with funding from contractors G Purchase Construction Ltd and Arts and Business Cymru through their Culture Step Programme.

The choir were joined on stage by Dr Mealor’s own choir from Aberdeen University and tenant Kathleen Lawley, 33, thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

She said: “It’s been magical. It’s been a long journey but we have got there and it’s been fantastic.

“It was beautiful to be singing on stage with Paul Mealor. I have never sung publicly before so it was a completely new experience. It’s been great.”

The choir got together initially at the beginning of the summer and the rehearsals were taken by the musically minded headteacher of the local school, Rhian Jones, who sang with the choir at the cathedral.

Bursting with pride, she said: “It was an absolutely brilliant experience. Everybody has worked really hard. They got a rousing reception from the discerning audience here which was thoroughly deserved.”

Pupil Ceri Owen, 10, was on cloud nine after singing on stage and said: “It’s been amazing, it was quite scary singing in front of the audience but I enjoyed it.

Fellow pupil Tia Ann Davies, also 10, added:

She said: “I have made loads of new friends and I have finally found out what my voice is really. It was a bit squeaky at first but now it’s a lot better.”

Dr Paul Mealor said: “This is a brilliant project and their performance was fantastic, this is what real music making is all about.

“It’s been a remarkable few days. People were there to enjoy themselves but to do serious work.

“This kind of thing is a life-changing experience because you’ve got a group of people who’ve never sung in their lives.

“Not only have they learnt how to sing but they have learnt to know each other through doing it. We’ve lost that in many communities and to bring it back in this way is fabulous.”

Andrew Bowden was “blown away” by their performance.

He said: “To be able to perform in front of hundreds of people in the cathedral at such a prestigious event is stunning.

“The songs were fantastic and their performance made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

“This project sums up what Cartrefi Conwy is all about because our mission statement is about creating communities to be proud of. I have been working in housing for more than 25 and I have never had an experience like this, and help influence and create the kind of community spirit through housing regeneration.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Jeff Bell, Group Commercial Director of G Purchase Construction Ltd.

He said: “It’s been wonderful. This is exactly what we have been looking for to support in local communities, bringing people of all ages together.

“It’s the local people who have delivered this – they have done themselves proud and made us very proud. We’re just lucky to be associated with this project.”

Ann Atkinson added: “It was very, very emotional after working with them and seeing how they developed and how they got used to singing in harmony and reading the music.

“To see them get up on stage and perform like that is absolutely amazing. It was utterly remarkable.

“They were not daunted, they kept the faith and they have grown. I take my hat off to them. It was spine-tingling.”

It was a message echoed by Cath More, the North Wales Manager of Arts and Business Cymru.

She said: “A&B Cymru are delighted to be a part of this fantastic community partnership creating a community engagement choir within the Parc Peulwys estate.

“To support the development of this project G Purchase Construction and North Wales International Music Festival have received investment from A&B Cymru’s CultureStep to develop their creative partnership. CultureStep is made possible by funding from the Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales.”

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