It was Friday 15th May 2015, and we were on our way to Wales for the weekend. The coach from Camborne arrived at Millbrook at approximately 10 a.m. to pick up the first of the ladies and their guests, plus a very important piece of equipment - the keyboard! The next stop was Torpoint at 10.40 a.m. to take on board the majority of the ladies and ‘other halves’, and then on to Landrake for Lin Curtis. A drive over the Saltash Bridge took us from Cornwall into Devon where we went to Plympton to collect Christine and her husband Peter, and while we stopped to make ourselves comfortable, Ryan, our excellent and very friendly coach driver, introduced himself and gave us information about the journey to Wales, times of stopping, routes, and our estimated time of arrival.
The weather was fine and we were all in good spirits. Throughout the journey, we were supplied with huge bags of sweets from some of the ladies, who kept passing them backwards and forwards amongst us all.
Our first stop was at 1.10 p.m. at Sanders Garden World near Taunton, where we rested for about an hour and a half. This gave us time to have lunch and look around the gift shop and garden departments. At 2.30 p.m. we were back on the coach and heading towards the M4, which took us over the Severn Bridge and into Wales. It was a very pleasant journey, as we travelled through the mountains and valleys and into Mid-Wales. We arrived at the Metropole Hotel at 5.20 p.m. having seen little traffic apart from at Builth Wells, where we encountered some road works.
On our arrival the ladies of the TLS were met with a warm Welsh welcome by a group from the Builth Well Ladies Choir, who had kindly gathered to greet us. After much chatter and excitement the ladies went to our rooms to unpack and dress for the evening meal in a reserved part of the spacious restaurant. The hotel did not disappoint as we tucked in to all manner of delicacies, including Welsh lamb that was a favourite with many. Time sped by and the talk of the events of the next day changed to talk of a good night's sleep.
Saturday began with a visit to the glorious Elan Valley...
Next morning, after a delicious breakfast in the charming restaurant we eventually boarded the coach. The driver (who had now become ‘one of the ladies’ after the care he had taken on the journey to Wales) took us all to the beautiful and scenic setting of the Elan Valley, a place highly recommended by Sylvia Fraser (TLS MD) who had visited the area the year before.
Again the group, which included our ever-faithful groupies – made up of husbands, partners, friends and relatives, who had travelled with the ladies, had a wonderful journey in the coach all around the reservoirs and through the valleys showing Wales at its very best. Some of us braved the cold wind for a walk across the top of the dam to take photos and to look with awe upon the vast expanse of water. At this point I must mention the skill and patience of Ryan, who, despite narrow roads and several uphill bends, took us with great care and skill so that we had the best views possible of the area. As we rode in the coach back to the visitors’ centre for a cuppa and a look at the souvenir shop, we were able to glimpse the beautiful woods and forests, many of which had carpets of bluebells that added to the almost mythical feel of the scenery around us.
Time for lunch...
Shortly afterwards we were taken to our next stop, the Bell Country Inn near LLandrindrod. Plans had been made that we should stop here for a late lunch and enjoy yet another Welsh repast. To our surprise, there happened to be a Welsh Male Voice choir in another bar. They had seen us arrive in our uniform of yellow polo shirts and tee shirts, and they were interested to know who we were and why were in the area. They came into our bar where we were awaiting our meal. Then, to our great delight, they began to sing two songs in Welsh a capella, which was absolutely delightful. It was a very special moment as many unplanned experiences are. We exchanged details and - who knows - we may well meet again to sing together? Of course, we showed our appreciation by reciprocating with our own unaccompanied “Song of Cornwall”, which they seemed to enjoy. They then left and we tucked into another lovely meal decorated with lots of chatter.
After lunch on Saturday
Following a group photo or two, we boarded the coach and returned to The Metropole Hotel for a rest or a walk around the town. Then it was time to dress for the rehearsal with the Builth Wells Ladies Choir. The rehearsal went well, and it was lovely to meet our new friends who made up a choir of nearly forty. The Builth Wells ladies looked glamorous in their black dresses and sparkling silver lace boleros.
Formally dressed and ready to sing
Rehearsing prior to the concert
Rehearsing for the joint-choir items
The Builth Wells Ladies Choir performing the lively "Da Doo Ron Ron"
The time went by and the audience started to arrive and settle.
At 7:30, our compere, Philip Gayther, welcomed everyone and began to amuse us all with his dry quips and jokes. The Builth Wells Ladies Choir was the first to share their four musical pieces: “As Long As I have Music”, “Lausanne”, the lively song from South Pacific, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man” and ended their set with “Unchained Melody”. It was clear they were well rehearsed under the leadership and guidance of their Musical Director Ionwen Davies and accompanist Ann Bufton. They made a beautiful, well-balanced, and strong sound.
We were then privileged to hear two Welsh male singers, brothers Roland and Ian Davies who sang both as soloists and in a comical duet. They were accompanied by their pianist, Fflur Davies.
It was then the turn of the Torpoint Lady Singers to bring our contributions of “Gonna Build a Mountain”, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” (lyrics by William Wordsworth) and Barry Manilow’s “One Voice”. Finally, assisted by the lovely solo voice of Justine Dalton, we sang “O Rejoice That The Lord Has Arisen”. With Sylvia Fraser, our Musical Director conducting us and willing us to perform our best, and Sue Westwell accompanying us on the piano, we were made to feel comfortable and secure. Initial nerves about performing in Wales, the ‘home of singing’, soon faded away.
The compere and his amusing tales smoothly covered entrances and exits of all the participants.
After the raffle had been drawn and everyone had moistened their dry voices, it was the turn of the TLS to commence proceedings in the second half, and they began with “The Rose”, “Round the Riverside” and “Skye Boat Song”. The final piece of the set had Justine once again singing solo parts in “Wherever You Are”.
Roland and Ian returned to entertain everyone most beautifully with more solos and duets that included a moving rendition of John Denver’s “Perhaps Love”.
The strong, beautiful sound of The Builth Wells ladies gave us “Hafan Gobaith”, which highlighted just how lyrical and musical the Welsh language is. This was followed by “Benedictus”, “Thank You For The Music” and “Da Doo Ron Ron”, with two energetic soloists making it a very lively performance.
To round off the evening, the two choirs joined forces for “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “All That Jazz”.
The evening's performance reaches a climax with a joint performance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water".
TLS Chairperson, Chris Trethewey, gives a vote of thanks to the hosts
Presentations and thanks followed, with the ladies from Cornwall being presented with an engraved wooden spoon, and the Builth Wells Ladies receiving a pennant from Torpoint with a picture of the local ferry as mementoes.
Flowers were given to all accompanists and MDs, and Chris Trethewey thanked Jennie Reid, secretary of the TLS, for her hard work in helping to make the weekend possible. All proceeds from ticket sales were donated to the Wales Air Ambulance.
It was then time for the combined choirs each to end a memorable evening with an anthem. The Torpoint Ladies Singers sang “Song of Cornwall” and the Builth Wells Ladies reminded us of our location by singing the Welsh National Anthem.
The evening was completed with drinks, biscuits, and buns, kindly offered by our hosts, and more chatter and stories continued into the early hours for some!
Builth Wells chairperson presents the TLS with a gift
After a very pleasant weekend, we boarded the coach at 10.30 a.m. on Sunday morning, having been bid farewell by some of the Builth Wells ladies and some of our own ladies who were staying at the Hotel for a bit longer. Our hosts intimated that they would very much like to visit us in Torpoint, possibly next year for a return concert.
We then took a different route out of Wales avoiding the Toll bridge, which took us to Gloucester and the Quays, where we stopped for two hours to have some lunch and a spot of retail therapy. Judging by the number of M&S bags that accompanied the ladies back onto the coach, it would appear to have been a very successful stop!
All spent out, we left Gloucester at 2.45 p.m., and headed home, stopping once again at Plympton for Christine and Peter at 5.20 p.m., then on to Landrake for Lin. We arrived safely back at Torpoint just after 6 p.m. and then the coach finished the journey back at Millbrook for the final drop off at about 6.30 p.m.
Everyone agreed that it had been a tremendous and most enjoyable weekend, and that Wales and its people had made us feel very welcome indeed. We hope one day to share Cornwall with our new-found friends from Wales.
Sunday morning departure after an excellent weekend