Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Croeso i Cymru

Sue cooked us a splendid full breakfast with consummate ease and Lorna drove Diana and me back to Latteridge. Will and Sharon hadn’t yet surfaced and we’d arranged the night before to meet late morning somewhere or another.
We marched into Rudgeway on the A38 and then, undaunted in spite of recent experience, set off on footpaths towards the Old Bridge that crosses the Severn. It was a marvellous sight standing enormously tall and gleaming whitely in the sunshine. Yes, sunshine.
We actually managed not to get lost at all and surfaced near Olveston where we met W and S. Again, the best route for walking and enjoying was not the most direct one. We branched off onto a cycle path and then across fields. We found ourselves in a muddy and mucky meadow full of foreign cattle who, unlike their British counterparts, found us deeply terrifying. The big, butch bull took off at the sight of us and jumped a wooden rail into the next field; his comrades took their cue from him and it was like a watching a stampede in an old Western movie.
And then across the Severn Bridge. Five years ago I crossed it coming the other way, after 800 miles of walking and some five concerts. It had been a little breezy then, but now the wind was shockingly strong.
Sharon is only waif sized and she had to hold on to Will in order to avoid being blown away altogether.
We battled across, heads down, arms flailing and leg muscles weeping at the effort required to breach the gale. And then the wind dropped immediately as we reached shelter on the other side. We looked battered and windswept, but hey, we were nearly in Wales.
Another mile or so and we were standing in front of a big brown sign on the A466 which said; ‘Croeso I Cymru’ Welcome to Wales.
Photographs all round and then into the Jag, back to Olveston to pick up Will’s car and a speedy journey back to Uley.
14 miles (which brings the total so far to; 22, 22 ½ , 16 ½ ,21, 24, 25 ½ , 14, 20 ½, 11.3, 11.6, 26, 22. 177.3 to the Cardiff M. centre.)

A quick lunch at Tim and Sue’s and then Will and I hotfooted it over to Berkeley Castle.
As the cast arrived, we took it in turns to sing and play through our pieces and Will installed himself in an upstairs room (which actually had modern sockets and not the old round pin ones) and typed out the programme. The cast comprised me, Linda Ormiston, Hugh Rhys Evans, Heather Tomala, Angela Livingstone, Gillian Ford and Jill Phillips. A huge thank you to you all for coming to support the cause for nothing; and an extra thank you to Linda for compiling the programme when I ran out of time. For the fortnight before the walk started, I needed at least 50 hours a day to get through the work…I know I’m slow, but even so!
Rehearsal over, Will ran me back to Uley and we gathered our belongings, showered and drove back.
We should have collected an elderly friend of the Powells on the way, but thanks to my faulty hearing, I believed the arrangement had been cancelled. So, when someone asked an hour later,( and thirty minutes before the concert), ‘where’s Virginia?’ the awful truth dawned and poor Will was despatched back to Uley, yet again, to collect the faintly puzzled and uncomplaining lady from outside her house. Sorry Will and sorry Virginia.
Meanwhile, back at the castle – and what a magnificent castle it is – the crowds had finished their picnics and were making their way to their seats in the Great Hall.
What an amazing privilege to sing in the room where the Knights of the West gathered before riding to Runnymede to sign Magna Carta. It puts a certain perspective on things, especially when it’s very wet.
Jane Jones of Classic FM hosted the concert and she was simply marvellous. Without fuss or bother, she quietly collected all the information she needed from the artists and was the perfect presenter throughout. She immediately established a terrific rapport with the 140- strong audience and guided the evening with the same sure hand and delightful personality that makes her such a favourite on the radio.
The concert shells which had been printed and donated to the Walk by Cantate Print were a triumph – apart from one glaring misspelling of SPONSERS (sic). I looked really quite good in the photos – thanks to Paul Mitchell and Lisa the make-up whiz – and may have to consider a career in old people’s modelling!
The concert was a huge success and we made nearly £4,000 profit. What a testimony to the hard work of Tim and Sue Powell and their committee. And a very big thank you to Mr & Mrs John Berkeley who allowed us to use the castle at a very generous charity rate; and finally, another big thank you to all the castle staff who were extraordinarily helpful and patient throughout the rehearsal and performance.
The goodbyes and tidying up were done in a matter of minutes – musicians are like lightening when it comes to getting away from the scene of the crime! And for the last time today, back to Uley and bed. Hooray.

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