Stratford choir set for international stage

By Ian Hughes Thursday 07 February 2013 Updated: 08/02 08:23

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Buy photos » Some members of the Amicantus Choir tune up for the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod Marc Ward, Emma-Jane Bartholomew, Jane Kocan-Payne, Joseph Lingard, Emme Foster, Stuart Kocan-Payne, Musical Director Maddy Evans, Rachel Beacham and Lauren Craner. (s)

A CHOIR of friends from Stratford are preparing to take on the world - just months after getting together.

The Amicantus Singers, who only formed in October, will take to the stage at this year's Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in North Wales, which attracts stars of the calibre of Bryn Terfel, Alfie Boe and the late Luciano Pavarotti.

The 15-strong choir, which has been accepted in the mixed choir section at July’s Eisteddfod, are already busy rehearsing twice a week in their musical director’s Stratford home. They will perform three songs in the opening round of the competition.

Choir member Stuart Kocan-Payne said the choir was shocked, but delighted, after being accepted to perform on the Royal International Pavilion stage.

He said: “It’s amazing to be honest. We only formed in the October of last year, although we have all been singing for many years and were all members of Stratford Musical Theatre Company.

“When we formed we had an idea of entering a few competitions and obviously knew about the Llangollen International Eisteddfod so I made a few enquiries and we thought we’d give it a try. However, if we are honest we never thought we had any chance of being accepted.”

Stuart fired off an e-mail requesting information on the entry requirements.

“We actually didn’t think we would get in but I sent in the entry and was delighted when we soon had a reply saying the Eisteddfod director was happy for us to enter the mixed choir class provided our Mp3 recording, which we had to send with our entry form, was up-to-scratch.

“We sent the recording again with very little confidence we would be accepted. Only to get a reply saying we were in which left us flabbergasted but over the moon. We then thought we better get down to some hard work and have been rehearsing ever since.”

Amicantus, which loosely translates from Latin as ‘friends who sing’ - will have just 12 minutes to impress the judges, and will certainly be showcasing their versatility.

They will open with a sacred 16th century Christmas carol called Gaudete, which means Rejoice in Latin, and which was actually a hit for Steeleye Span in 1973.

The choir, the brainchild of musical director Maddy Evans, will follow it with Adiemus, written by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, which actually has no real lyrics but instead syllables and words invented by Jenkins.

And they will complete their set with Take That's chart-topper Rule The World.

Stuart said the choir - which includes everyone from teachers to charity workers - is not even thinking of the possibility of making it to the second round.

He added: “We may fall down technically at the end of the day but what we will do is bring out the joy of singing. We are just delighted and so thrilled to have been given the chance to perform at Llangollen.

“Rehearsals aren’t easy as we currently only have the lounge of our musical director’s house. But we are working hard and also looking at designing a uniform so we all look the part.

“And of course we have to think about transport, accommodation and a host of other logistical problems that need addressing before the competition gets underway.”

Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths said Amicantus had earned their invitation.

He added: "Amicantus may be a new choir but after hearing them sing we were delighted to be able to offer them a place.

“The Eisteddfod is a truly global event that has been going since 1947 and that’s because it sets high standards but if you can meet those standards then you’re very welcome – if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”

People locally will get a chance to hear the choir when they perform at Stratford’s River Festival the week before the Eisteddfod.

The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod runs from July 9 to 14.

Some members of the Amicantus Choir tune up for the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod - from left - Marc Ward, Emma-Jane Bartholomew, Jane Kocan-Payne, Joseph Lingard, Emme Foster, Stuart Kocan-Payne, Musical Director Maddy Evans, Rachel Beacham and Lauren Craner. (s)

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