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(Twenty) Five Go Mad in Wales

Over the weekend of 8/9th July 2023 the Surrey Hills Chamber Choir made their third visit to the renowned International Eisteddfod at Llangollen in North Wales, and what a fantastic weekend it was.

Every year choirs from all over the world, including America, Canada, the Philippines and Scandinavia, descend on this small town hidden away in the Welsh hills for one of the best performing arts festivals to be found anywhere in the UK (there are dance troupes, instrumentalists and operatic soloists too, to name but a few of the categories, but we figured those might be a little beyond us). The whole thing is televised live on Welsh language S4C TV, and as you can see from these pictures, we made it into the final credits!

Competing in both the Mixed and Open classes we sang our usual variety of styles, from modern pieces in English such as Paul Mealor's "Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal" and Will Todd's "Encircled", to the highly challenging "Caelos Ascendit Hodie" by Owain Park, to the 17th Century Baroque German "Selig Sind Die Toten" by Heinrich Schutz.

We came up against some very strong international opposition and were delighted to finish as high as 8th out of 16 choirs in the Open Class where the winners were Delaware State University. Also up against us were Kammerchoir Manila from the Philippines who went on to be crowned the overall Choir of the World.

While the music flowed in the huge 2000-seater "marquee" that is the centrepiece of the Eisteddfod, thunder and lightning crashed about the hills outside, which added a certain frisson to our already dramatic performance of Dies Irae by Zdeněk Lukáš.

Outside the tent great fun was had soaking up the sights and sounds of Llangollen, and quite a few of us stayed on for a few days' "R&R" after the singing was over.

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