As singing preparations go, cycling from Banbury to Wales is certainly a novel one!
But that is what the Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir have completed as part of their epic bicycle pilgrimage to St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.
The choir was formed back in 1928 by Welsh Miners that left the coal mines by foot and bicycle to seek work in Cowley’s growing automotive industry. So the Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir paid homage to this legacy by completing the second stage of a cycle ride from Oxford to St David’s Cathedral in West Wales to sing in a joint concert with Haverford West Male Voice Choir.
Back in 2019, prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, choristers from Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir including several Banbury bases choristers, cycled from Oxford city center to Penarth’s St Augustine’s Church to perform in a joint concert of Welsh Male Voices with Penarth Welsh Male Voice Choir . This journey took four days and took 15 choristers on a beautiful ride through Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Gwent and Glamorgan with Banbury-based Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir musical director Helen Swift, drilling the choristers on their notes and lyrics all the way.
Following the end of the CV19 Pandemic, the velo vocalists were at it again, completing the second stage of their epic trip and cycling from Penarth to St David’s Cathedral. One intrepid cyclist, Lloyd Evans from Adderbury, deciding to complete the journey in full and cycling all the way from Banbury to St David’s Cathedral, on a cycle that took six days and covered a total of 300 miles.
The first leg saw Lloyd starting at first light in his home village of Adderbury and cycling through the beautiful Cotswold Villages as the sun came up, through to Chipping Norton, out of Oxfordshire and into Gloucester with an overnight stop in Stroud. The next morning found a sore and tired Lloyd cycling through the pouring rain from Stroud along the banks of the Severn to the bridge, across and into Wales. Here the sun finally came out and Lloyd enjoyed some beautiful cycling through south Wales and Cardiff city center to the end point at Penarth promenade.
That evening saw Lloyd meeting up with the other cyclists in Cardiff, where they were hosted by Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir, who invited them to their rehearsal in the fantastic Cardiff Arms Park clubhouse.
The next morning found the trip blessed with good weather as the choristers set off from Penarth’s Belle Vue Park and made great time, enjoying beautiful cycling through South Wales to Port Talbot via Margam Park. Here they were met with Port Talbot Cymric Choir, who hosted the boys for a fantastic afterglow evening complete with beer, food, lots of song and even some solo turns from the chaps.
Next, the chaps were off to Carmarthen, via Swansea sea front and the Loughor Bridge. Here, disaster struck when Oxford Welsh’s chairman Andy Jones was viciously attacked by a stationary bollard that came out of nowhere and caused irreparable damage to his bike meaning he could not continue on this leg. Luckily, Andy was unharmed by this surprise attack and the brave Oxford Welsh support crew scooped him up and transported him to Hobb’s Bike Shop in Carmarthen, where master wheel builder and truer Dyfrig Hobbs, was able to save Andy’s hub (but unfortunately not his pride ).
Absent their leader, the remaining cyclist continued to their next stop in Carmarthen, where they were greeted with a beautiful sunset over the hills. Here they were joined by Carmarthen Male Voice Choir for a real lesson in Welsh pronunciation and a brilliant sing song.
The next morning saw the boys leaving bright and early (with several wrong turns in Carmarthen and a couple of punctures) on the penultimate leg of their journey to Haverford West. The route took them along the beautiful Pembroke coast, complete with beautiful views and lots and lots of hill climbs!
Finally, Oxford Welsh arrived in Haverford West, here after a quick shower and change the boys were met by Haverford West Male Voice Choir and treated to a hearty pre-concert rehearsal in the hotel bar, after all it is vital that a choir practice singing together prior to a concert.
On Saturday morning the boys were up bright and early to cycle the last 20 miles into St David’s in time for the big event, and what an event it was. Both choirs sang their hearts out to a packed cathedral, who were wowed by the close harmonies of both choirs and treated to the rare sight of 100 choristers singing their hearts out, masterfully directed by Banbury based musical director Helen Swift & accompanied by expert pianist Tim Croston and Organist Andrew Patterson.
This sell out concert was then naturally followed by a brilliant afterglow in the local Rugby Club, where the boys toasted their epic trip and enjoyed yet more singing!
If you are interested in hearing more about Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir’s exploits, want to book the choir for your private event, want to join our exalted ranks or want to see us in concert head to https://www.oxfordwelshmvc.org.uk
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, then check out the upcoming Christmas concert at Iffley Church on December 17. Oxford Welsh will also be coming to Banbury’s St Marys church on May 20 to help sing in the summer in style.