National Youth Choir of Wales - Patagonia 2015

Gwyn Williams, the director of Ty Cerdd, travelled to Argentina to work and research this visit with support from the International Opportunities Fund in 2013. He shared his thoughts with us about this visit to Patagonia in October 2015.

Forty two young singers, six pastoral staff and one Welsh conductor left Cardiff Bay on the 23rd of October in the wake of the Mimosa. Amongst their luggage were two video cameras, two stereo microphones and the score of a brand new commissioned work for voices and accordion by Paul Mealor, Ty Cerdd’s President. With us came staff from Wales Millennium Centre, our principal partner in the adventure.

Over the next ten days the choir gave nine scheduled performances, and five impromptu ones. They sang to a total audience of 5529 people plus a whale and her calf who surfaced at Punto Cuevas just off the Valdes Peninsula, the spot where, 150 years ago, the Mimosa discharged its precious cargo. During the prayer the choir sang in memory of the original settlers.

Whilst in Argentina the young singers forged special relationships with their peers from St George’s School, Buenos Aires to Ysgol yr Hendre, Y Gaiman. One of our sopranos is returning to spend a year on work-placement at St George’s as part of her university work.

It was a delight to sing at Teatro Gran Rex, Buenos Aires to a capacity audience of 1,000 people. It was our largest venue and it led to a rave review in La Nacion ("The concert crowned this year’s Mozarteum series and the excellence of the National Youth Choir of Wales remains unequalled"). But the most emotional experience for everyone was performing in the smallest venue: Capel Bethel, Y Gaiman. There the choir sang to a capacity audience of 350 and shared the stage with Gaiman Ladies choir and a local baritone, both of whom sang in Welsh.

Of all our performances the one many of us will remember most is the one of Calon Lan performed, in Welsh and Spanish, with the primary school children of Y Gaiman.

For me the visit was the culmination of two years of planning, and it was the greatest pleasure to share with our young people the people and places that I have been visiting since 1987. It is now for them to develop their new found friendships with the people of Y Wladfa and Buenos Aires, so that they will also, in 30 years’ time, be able to reflect on a journey that changed their lives.

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