Culture Theatre

Review | Only Men Aloud Decade Gala Concert

By Kathleen Walker

★★★★

Eighteen years ago, a choir was by formed by a group of friends joining together to sing for after-dinner entertainment. It’s a story which could be repeated around campuses and local communities across the country. Just take a look at our Student Union’s current list of societies bursting with energy and talent. But ten years ago, Tim Rhys-Evans (MBE) helped his group of talented friends take their informal meetings a step further, encouraging them to audition for “Last Choir Standing”. Thus began the re-invigoration of Welsh male voice choirs with the group Only Men Aloud.

Ten years on, this ensemble are embarking on their Decade Tour, celebrating ten years since they won the talent show and their varied career began. Naturally, the tour had to hold its Gala event in the heart of the Cardiff, the Millennium Centre. The group’s traditional audience demographic certainly doesn’t deter anyone from tuning in and the theatre was packed! With their current eight-member line up (including recent Cardiff University alumni) the group’s vocal blend was beautifully harmonious and suited for a wide ranging repertoire.

Choral music is a deceptively tricky business to get right and it takes a lot of effort, time and rehearsal to get it up to a high standard. However, the end results are so worth it, whether you’re part of the choir or the especially lucky audience. This was particularly true at the Millennium Centre, with the choir wowing the audience with their vocal talent. Once the smoke had cleared from the stage, the group’s raw talent was evident as they glided through a diverse programme selected by their fans. This spanned from traditional Welsh tunes, to classics from ELO, Glen Miller and Barry Manilow to Take That and Robbie Williams hits (with a sprinkling of show tunes for good measure!)

My highlights included a soaring rendition of Calon Lan that gave me goose bumps (and I’m not even Welsh!) where the group were accompanied by the next generation of talent in Only Boys Aloud, guided by their creator and musical maestro, Tim Rhys-Evans. This was followed by a stirring rendition of Bui Doi from Miss Saigon, packed with emotion and feeling. However, I was equally in awe of the beautiful arrangements and harmonies in the Rule the World medley, featuring songs by Take That, Coldplay and Tears for Fears, which were creatively blended into an arrangement by Rhys-Evans.

During the concert the Men each took time to speak, giving insight into the fun dynamic of the group, but also the warmth and spirit that runs through this band of brothers in all their formations. The love and pride they felt singing together was clear to every audience member and was matched when we were invited to sing-a-long to the Tom Jones Medley. You try stopping anyone from enjoying Delilah, let alone a Cardiff audience led by a top-notch male voice choir! This concert was a rousing night of Welsh male choral singing at its finest and one to catch live if possible!

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