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For all music- and arts-based clubs, societies and organisations, the last sixteen months have been an exceptionally frustrating time. In many cases, amateur choral societies have had to suspend activities, while others, such as Crickhowell Choral Society, have managed to carry on with the technological lifeline of virtual meetings and practices. It is an auspicious year for the society, as this is its 40th anniversary. Planning for special celebrations had started when all things changed last spring. Throughout its forty years of existence, some amazing festivals, concerts and other events have taken place, and the society is continuing this impressive musical story behind closed doors for the present.

There are many notable milestones of choral repertoire to look back on, such as Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to name but a few. The society has explored many interesting byways into often neglected areas of choral music, having performed the Welsh premieres of contemporary composers including Arvo Pärt and James MacMillan, and Baroque composers Vivaldi and Lully. It has also performed semi-dramatised productions of early operas in collaboration with highly acclaimed director Tom Guthrie, including Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Gluck’s Euridice and Purcell’s Dido, Fairy Queen and King Arthur. The society’s repertoire is hugely eclectic, thanks to the exciting programming of director Stephen Marshall. Audiences have laughed along with the Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore and other gems by Gilbert and Sullivan, and the annual music festival has linked baroque and modern works by means of intriguing and diverse themes. Crickhowell Choral Society has been fortunate in attracting top international soloists such as its president Elin Manahan Thomas, Emma Kirkby, James Gilchrist, Charles Daniel, Catherine King… the list is long and impressive.

Singin’ in the rain! Crickhowell Choral Society rehearsing during inclement weather at Crickhowell High School

At the core of the society’s aims is its commitment to young people and the nurturing of musical talent among local schoolchildren. In addition to the well-established and highly successful choral scholarship scheme, the education programme includes outreach to junior and secondary schools in the form of joint concerts, workshops and masterclasses with festival soloists. These are invaluable experiences for the young people of Crickhowell and the surrounding area.

Crickhowell Choral Society receives outstanding support from its patrons. Their generosity enables the choir’s support of so many young people and the wide repertoire is a significant result of their tireless and very welcome involvement.

Ever optimistic, Crickhowell Choral Society is hoping that it can celebrate its 40th anniversary on the occasion of its concert on 27th. November. For updates on activities, please go to or the Facebook page. One final note: Stephen Marshall’s most memorable event? The junior schools’ workshop on Messaien’s Quartet for the End of Time with a professional ensemble! Wow!

Cathey Owen Cousins

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