Choir, guests recreate WWII life

2015-10-13 06:00
The Cape Welsh Choir will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a special concert on Wednesday 28 October.

The Cape Welsh Choir will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a special concert on Wednesday 28 October.

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“To be part of a 75th anniversary is always special, but to be part of a memorial event for that period of time is really special.”

So says Barrie Jones, treasurer and chorister of the Cape Welsh Choir. The all-male group will be presenting a really special concert to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on Wednesday 28 October.

The choir has been presenting an annual commemorative concert at the Simon’s Town Naval Base Church for about the last 15 years and has a long-standing relationship with the organisers, the RAF Association of South Africa.

With the 75th anniversary being “quite a milestone”, this year’s concert will be something extra special.

“For us it’s a big departure,” Barrie says, explaining that they would normally go on stage and sing in the Welsh male voice choir style.

This time round, the Cape Welsh Choir has put a full production or showcase together in the spirit of reflecting the “era and circumstances” of the period around World War II.

The concert takes place against the backdrop of a specially-built set that recreates a typical bomb shelter in the London underground, with the choir dressed in clothes typical of the era.

“It sounds dramatic maybe, but they were hard times, so there are no pink shirts, for example. It’s all very staid, working-class stuff.”

They’ll be singing medleys of a selection of well-known songs from the time.

“All of those songs were used to embolden that spirit of resistance.”

Barrie explains that music was used in World War II to unify Britain. Many of the songs were popularised by “the force’s sweetheart”, Vera Lynn.

South African soloist Yvette Elliott will be bringing Lynn’s songs to life, complete with period costumes. For a bit of variation, they’ll be joined by the “rousing” Cape Field Artillery Pipes and Drums as well as guests from the UK: The RAF Salon Orchestra with their big band sound and the Queen’s Colour Squadron with their precision marching display.

All of this will be neatly threaded together with a “well-constructed” narrative put together by Reverend Ralph Thornley, a keen amateur historian. “He’s got a wealth of information and knowledge.”

Thornley tells the story of the four months of the Battle of Britain, interspersed with audio-visual clips to help recreate the atmosphere around the war.

“I think it’s going to be a very special occasion,” Barrie says, adding: “It’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Made up of members from all over the Cape Peninsula, the Cape Welsh Choir has presented more than 800 concerts in its 33-year existence. “So, we’ve got a few milestones of our own.”

The choir’s primary focus is on fundraising for third parties and so far it’s been able to help other organisations raise about R3m.

Three members have been with the choir since the beginning: Alan Thompson from Pinelands, Ian Jones from Table View and Freddie Ahern from Brackenfell.

While the average age of the choir members is 50-plus, they are always looking for new and younger members and use every concert as a recruitment opportunity.

Anyone interested in joining the choir can contact chairperson Graham Tennison on 021 696 1716 or 073 463 1028.

Two performances take place at the Claremont civic centre on Wednesday 28 October at 15:00 and 19:30. Tickets from Computicket cost R120 and R150 each for the respective performances and proceeds will go towards the RAF (SA) Benevolent Fund. V

For more information about the Cape Welsh Choir, visit or find them on Facebook. Visit the Rodney Kilgour channel on YouTube for a taste of what to expect.

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