Top Choir Sets the Tone for Family Festival in Rhos

THE choral stars of today will for the first time perform alongside their counterparts of tomorrow in a show-stopping St David’s Day concert by the world-famous Rhos Male Voice Choir.

Rhos Male Voice iconsThe concert featuring the newly-formed Rhos Boys Choir is one of the highlights of a feast of family entertainment planned for the Stiwt, in Rhos, near Wrexham.

In sharp contrast, also lined up on the same packed programme is an evening of all-star Welsh wrestling featuring the grappler who gave a headline-hitting mauling to former MP Lembit Opik.

Built during the Great Depression thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of miners from Wales’s biggest village and often described as a “national treasure”, the Stiwt has become a Welsh cultural icon since being brought back from the verge of demolition by popular demand in 1999.

And as part of a new drive to offer local people the kind of entertainment that’s right up their street, the Stiwt will be staging its first Family Festival, to coincide with the school half-term holidays, from February 25-March 7.

One of the keynotes of the packed programme will a St David’s Day concert, on Saturday, March 1, which will see the  Rhos Boys’ Choir making their debut alongside Rhos Male Vale Choir.

Geraint Phillips, secretary of both choirs, explained how it’s hoped the boys will one day pick up the melody from their older opposite numbers and become the Rhos Male Voice Choir of the future.

He said: “The boys’ choir, which has about 20-25 members aged from seven to 12, was formed only last September, basically as a way of recruiting for the male voice choir but also to get the youngsters interested in singing.

“So far they have been doing very well and the St David’s Day concert at the Stiwt will be the first time both choirs, senior and junior, have ever performed together. We’re all looking forward to it very much.

“The main choir will be releasing a Christmas CD around November and the boys will have another performance when they record a couple of the numbers for it at Ysgol y Grango in Rhos shortly.

“Apart from the boys, also singing with us at the Stiwt on St David’s Day will be the school choir from Ysgol Morgan Llwyd in Wrexham and a soloist, Joshua Mills, who was one of the competition winners at last year’s National Eisteddfod in Denbigh.”

Geraint added: “The Stiwt is very important to the choir. We hold our rehearsals there every Thursday evening and over the years have performed in the theatre many times.

“To us the Stiwt is very much home ground and we see it as important not just to the local community but to culture in Wales as a whole.”

The packed programme at the Stiwt kicks off – quite literally – on Tuesday, February 25, with Welsh All-Star Wrestling.

So far confirmed for a place on the bill for the evening, which starts at 7.30pm, are Kade Callous, Iestyn Rees, former WWE Superstar and 2013 Welsh Heavyweight Champion Steve Star and the Mexican masked fighter Magico.

Cardiff-based Kade Callous will take to a ring to be specially constructed in one of the Stiwt’s large main halls after being at the centre of a media storm over the summer 2012 fight which left former Montgomeryshire Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik in need of hospital treatment.

Eighteen stone Callous was unrepentant about his rough handling of the politician who had accused him of cheating in an earlier bout, telling the press: “He’s been taught a mighty lesson and I hope he doesn’t want to fight again, because I will put him in hospital again.”

A complete change of pace comes to the Stiwt on Wednesday, February 26, when the theatre presents a night with comedian and S4C talk show host Tudur Owen.

Tudur will take the opportunity of the live appearance, starting at 7.30pm, to debut brand new and unseen comedy material. Joining him will be the famous Cwmni Rhos Uffen, stars of numerous productions such as S4C’s Seren Nadolig Rhos and Iechyd dda.

It’s time for something completely different the next afternoon, Wednesday, February 26, when the locally-based Treasure Trove Puppet Company presents its Robin Hood Puppet Show at 1pm.

The play, aimed squarely at the kids, tells an exciting and accessible tale of the legendary outlaw set against the backdrop of his haunt in Sherwood Forest and the battlements of towering Nottingham Castle, base of his arch enemy the Sherriff of Nottingham.

Next night, Thursday, February 27, the Stiwt’s own resident youth theatre group, Theatr Ifanc Rhos 1990, will take to the stage to present Past, Present and Future, a diverse collection of music, dancing and acting which will showcase the talents of around 50 young performers aged five to 18, most of whom are from the local area.

On Monday, March 3, the Stiwt will turn the clock back 70 years to days of World War two as it welcomes the D Day Darlings, a group of melodic young ladies who in an afternoon show, starting at 3pm, will harmonise on a collection of classic wartime songs such as We’ll Meet Again, Run Rabbit Run and I’ll Be Seeing You.

Bringing the Family Festival to a swinging grand finale will be an 8pm appearance on Friday, March 7, of legendary sixties pop band The Troggs who will blast out some of their classic hits such as Wild Thing and With a Girl Like You.

Running throughout the festival is a full programme of workshops during which the public will get the chance to take a look behind the scenes of the productions and even try out some of the moves themselves.

These include a theatre workshop by the Stiwt’s technical manager Graham Phillips, a drama session by Theatr Ifanc director Rob Stevens, an open rehearsal by the Rhos Male Voice Choir, a puppetry workshop by Steven Sharples of the Treasure Trove Company and a masterclass by the stars of Welsh Wrestling.

According to the Stiwt’s operations manager Gavin Sharpe, the Family Festival has been designed as the perfect showcase for the community theatre and the diverse array of talent it is capable of presenting.

He said: “The festival is part of a new strategy which we have put in place under the banner ‘The Stiwt is Yours’. This aims to ensure we are putting on the kind of entertainment that people want to see and is literally right up their street.

“We have a very varied programme lined up for the festival which includes something to please the whole family.

“We hope we have provided something for everyone and will be able to demonstrate once again what an important entertainment asset the Stiwt is to the community, the region and the whole of Wales.”

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