A Chorister’s Story

Too old for rugby, but far from the wrong side of the grass.

By Tryone Rees

I played rugby until I was about 35. It wasn’t just the rugby but also all that went with it.

Matches, training and tours. Hosting touring teams and the sheer brutal slog of a local derby. It was the ‘being part’ helping others and others helping you. The team spirit and the camaraderie. Win or lose it was always great fun – though winning was always a little sweeter. I loved and immersed myself in every minute of it.

After the game was great fun. A few beers, rugby talk and the inevitable sing song: as loud and as brash as possible. There were the extrovert individuals who had their regular party tricks or would sing a solo, good or awful, to everybody’s delight and loud applause.

Then one day the bruises take longer to go, stiffness of limb is permanent and the aches and pains become too much and over time, other than visiting the club occasionally or joining the committee, rugby and all that goes with it becomes lost to you; except watching your own international side from the safe repose of a living room settee, of course.

Until that is you join a male voice choir and suddenly, you’re back in the fold, back in training, back in the game.

There’s practice (training) twice a week and concerts (matches) to perform in. There’s the banter between the forwards (basses and baritones) and the backs (top and 2nd tenors). There’s helping each other along, complimenting when good and cajoling (p*ss taking) when improvement is required. The team captain (conductor) is constantly on everybody’s case and when the accompanist (coach) gets it right, which is always, everybody plays a winner.

Choir tours are just like rugby tours but without the bruises, the same banter, the same social. The singing is markedly better and plenty of opportunity for extroverts and side shows. Over the bridge to England to sing in a joint concert with an English choir at their venue – well that’s a full-on international. Up your game boys – it’s personal; great camaraderie for all afterwards though. Joint concerts at home are competitive – nobody beats us on our turf.

So, you can’t sing – well neither can I; it works like this.

Turn up, sit yourself in the choir, anywhere in the choir. You’ll get a welcoming round of applause and a few handshakes; everybody wants you there. With us there is no audition, you’re welcome from the start.

You’re given a song sheet with the words on it and the conductor waves and off they go. You attempt to sing along. You will know straight away if your voice fits in with those immediately around you. If it does stay put. If it doesn’t move among the four sections until you find where you’re comfortable, voice up or down you will fit in somewhere – it’s designed that way.

Once you’ve found the section where you’re the most comfortable a couple of decent singers will sit alongside you and they will sing ‘in your ear’. This is a great help (thanks Tommy & Phil) it pulls you into line and gives you confidence; helps you to find the right sound (though some would say I’m still seeking it).

Like all in life the more you put in the more you get out of it. Like rugby training makes you a better player in a better team so choir practice makes you a better chorister in a better choir. Having a great musical team (conductor and accompanist) is the equivalent of having a great team captain and coach.

A couple of weeks or more of practice and a concert looms and you’re given a choir blazer, tie and trousers. You’ve been selected, you’re in the team for the next match.

Again, the analogy with rugby is striking. Getting yourself prepared, uniform, throat lozenges, water, ties straight, buttons done up. Line up in your sections for your entrance, dry mouth, nervousness, anticipation. Words of encouragement from your conductor, senior choristers and teammates ‘Come on Boys’, ‘Let’s Smash It’. Then you move onto the stage of play – and away we go.

You’ll know from the ‘feel’ as you go along how you’re doing, the direction coming from the conductor, the response from the audience. The applause. You see people singing along, mouthing the words, swaying with the song, crying from the emotion. Choirs are powerful entities. Then the concert is over; standing ovations leave you with a warm feeling. Backstage it’s congratulations all round, personal debriefs and then —

Then there’s the ‘Afterglow’. This is where the choir socialise, generally after concerts, where they gather at a bar or some such hostelry. Everybody gets a beer or drink and there’s a few minutes of conversation. Inevitably before you’re halfway through your first beer somebody, in our case an extrovert tenor, will start to sing. Everybody, and I mean everybody, joins in – and it’s decent. It’s so decent that those public persons not in the choir will immediately become your audience. People will hear you from far and come to see and hear what’s going on. Passers-by will pause to listen and film you. It’s a great community social event, savoured and enjoyed by all.


So, I say to you don’t lose all that good stuff, it’s still there. Get back in the game …..

My side is Onllwyn Male Voice Choir; and it’s a great team to play for. We’re always looking for new players forwards and backs. We have a great team captain and coach and an outstanding team spirit. We’ll make you welcome and coach you up to first team standard, you’ll not be alone.

We are, like all choirs, always recruiting new and old players of all standards, from novice first timers to old sweats who know all the ropes. We practice (train) twice a week on a Sunday and a Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. at Onllwyn Welfare Hall, Onllwyn.

This year 2020 we’re touring (playing away) in Ireland and probably two forays (games) across the bridge to the old enemy. Exciting times.

To join us click here and fill in the form. Cheers.


P.S. If Onllwyn is too far for you, there will be a choir closer.