Festival Memories, Choir Clock 2016

By Ramzi Youssef

My name is Ramzi and I work as a Producer in the Creative Learning team at Wales Millennium Centre, working across various projects that help develop young people’s skills for life and core skills for work – through cultural engagement. In the context of Festival of Voice, our work will focus on helping young people in Wales to get heard. 

Choir Clock was a new vocal project that premiered in Cardiff to mark the final weekend of Festival of Voice 2016. Developed by international contemporary music producers, Serious and produced in partnership with Wales Millennium Centre especially for Festival of Voice. Choir Clock brought together 17 choirs in 18 locations over 18 hours. Performances were on the hour, every hour from 7am through to the finale at midnight, led by Craig Yates of ‘Only Men Aloud’ in the Glanfa Foyer in the Centre. Cardiff Bay and the city centre came alive with the sound of choral voices from a variety of genres, locations and backgrounds, from Butetown to Bulgaria. 

Always something to discover no matter your musical taste, whether you were; aboard the Princess Katharine travelling up the Taff at 10am being serenaded by ‘Cardiff Canton Singers’, outside City Hall at 1pm grooving with ‘Choir With No Name’, inside the National Museum at 2pm signing with the ‘Dee-Sign Choir’, hollering on the Hayes at 5pm with ‘House Gospel Choir’ or admiring the sunset over Cardiff Bay at 9pm accompanied by the glorious sounds of ‘Côr CF1’, rapping in Mermaid Quay at 10pm with ‘Hard Côr’ or singing in Wales Millennium Centre at midnight with ‘Only Men Aloud’. 

Being a lover of gospel music, one highlight that really stuck out for me was House Gospel Choir in the middle of the Hayes on a busy Saturday afternoon. They stopped hundreds and hundreds of shoppers in their tracks with their infectious covers of 90s house classics, laden with layers of gospel harmonies and the undeniable groove of their band. Seeing people from all walks of life totally engrossed, dancing and singing along in the middle of the street, was a real pleasure to witness and a wonderful experience for those who were lucky enough to be in the crowd. 

Keeping with the theme of choirs, my Festival of Voice highlight had to be the Rustavi Ensemble from Georgia who performed in Llandaff Cathedral with Côr Meibion Ystradgynlais. One of the most amazing things about Festival of Voice is the number of new things you get to experience, hear, and see. Rustavi was definitely one of those things! They sounded like nothing I have ever heard before, with voices of incredible power, yet precise control. Their music had such an intriguing mix of Western and Eastern harmonies, constantly overlapping, creating such a rich sound that must be heard to be believed!

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