Loud Applause youngsters and baritone Mark Llewellyn Evans fly the flag for Wales
The trio journeyed to s’Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands for events commemorating the liberation of the town in World War Two.
The two ‘Rising Stars’ were Thomas Bytheway and Callum Rhys Williams, who are both part of the charitable wing of Loud Applause Productions, a group dedicated to mentoring and training young singers and musicians across South Wales.
Mark Llewellyn Evans is an Ambassador for ‘Rising Stars’ so he took the lead role in the Welsh contribution to the commemorative events.
The Welsh link with s’Hertogenbosch was formed back in October, 1944, when the 53rd Welsh Division spent five days in brutal fighting to liberate the town from the Nazis.
The chief executive of s’Hertogenbosch City Council Jan de Wit said: “It was wonderful to welcome our visitors from Llanelli to take part in our services.
“The services are unique in Europe for commemorating the liberation of a city after World War Two. There is a huge bond between our city and the Welsh and it is great to see that bond continuing.”
The West Wales contingent met some of the ‘Liberators’ (veterans all in their 90s) at the famous Welsh Room at s'Hertogenbosch Town Hall. They also took part in the emotional wreath-laying ceremony at the 53rd Welsh Division memorial.
Mark Llewellyn Evans contributed to the open air service with a rendition of Tell My Father, accompanied by Andrew Pike.
The evening concert was staged before a packed house at the Jerhominus Bosch Centre, a magnificent converted Catholic Church which seats 640.
The concert featured the s’Hertogenbosch mixed Choir, under the baton of their conductor Henk van der Sanden.
Mark Llewellyn Evans provided the ‘wow’ factor with a programme which include Cinema Paradiso, Aros Mae’r Mynyddau Mawr, Se Vuol Ballare, Myfanwy, Tell My father and On the Road to Mandalay.
He was very ably supported by the two young ‘Rising Stars’. Callum Rhys Willians contributed Make Them Hear You, I’ll Walk With God and a duet of Benedictus with Thomas Bytheway. Thomas Bytheway’s programme included Bring Him Home, Mi Glywaf Dyner Lais and Anfonaf Angel.
The Welsh singers were rewarded with a standing ovation.
The evening concluded with choir and performers joining in a specially-commissioned World War Two Requiem and the Welsh and Dutch national anthems.
Loud Applause director Cerith Owens said: “We could feel very proud at the way our young singers conducted themselves during the course of the visit and in the manner of their concert performances. It was a very special occasion for one and all.
The Loud Applause Rising Stars team members were accompanied on their journey by Loud Applause director Cerith Owens and his wife Alison, Loud Applause Trustee Susan Roberts and her husband Peter, and Lt Col David Mathias.
Cerith Owens gives his view of the trip to The Netherlands below -
We have returned from a most memorable visit to s'Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.
You would have been so proud of our young LARS singers Thomas and Callum.
They were like two gents throughout and so grateful and appreciative of the opportunity.
It will be an experience they will never forget.
Their conduct during the formal events was exemplary.
The travelling arrangements and visit went like clockwork; our hotel located on the town square was convenient by foot to all destinations.
We arrived early afternoon on Wednesday, David and Sue Mathias joined us in the evening when we met Jan de Wit, the city's Chief Executive.
Thursday was the main commemoration and after breakfast we joined the four Liberators (veterans all in their 90s) along with their families in the Welsh Room at the Town Hall where we were greeted by Jan de Wit.
Throughout our stay he made us feel very welcome. We were then transported to the Welsh Memorial where there was a very moving ceremony which included, readings, renditions from the mixed choir and Mark Llewelyn Evans accompanied by Andy Pike, who performed 'Tell My Father'.
We then all had lunch as guests of the city.
The evening's concert was at the Jerhominus Bosch Centre, a magnificent converted Catholic Church, it seated 640 which was filled to capacity on the night.
The friendliness of everyone settled our young artistes and both produced an excellent performance, what was also apparent was their immediate interaction with the audience.
Andy had worked tirelessly in the two weeks leading up to the visit, with his unfaltering support on the night and his excellent accompaniment we had the very best out of Tom and Callum.
Mark's performance was really special and enhanced the overall performance which LARS provided. It was little wonder that the performers had a standing ovation; which doesn't always happen (David said).
Several of the dignitaries sitting with David Mathias requested that LARS returned again!
We certainly created an impact.
The whole concert was a wonderful experience and the mixed choir took LARS into their hearts.
The following day we had a formal exchange of gifts at the City Hall, we presented Jan a framed tapestry for the Welsh Room (we will send him an engraved plate), we all received a book on s'Hertogenbosch and LARS a bottle of wine in a special case commemorating the 500 anniversary of artist Jerominus Bosch.
Jan had arranged a canal trip in the afternoon to explore the city 'at a lower level'; they are very proud of their restored canal which offered a unforgettable experience.
The rest of the day was time to relax.
We left midday on Saturday for home, again a very smooth journey back to Wales.
It was an unforgettable experience and an impact was certainly made !