A CONCERT of music and song organised by the Alton branch of The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was an unprecedented success.

The main hall in the Maltings Centre was packed to the gunnels for an evening featuring Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir supported by The Alton King’s Pond Shantymen on October 15.

At the conclusion of the concert there was a standing ovation, and since that evening many requests have been received by the organisers for more of the same next year.

Peter Treacher, vice-chairman of Alton branch of the RNLI, gave the welcoming address and spoke of the wonderful work done by charity whose lifeboat crews, rescue teams and lifeguards are all volunteers from many walks of life.

The charity, which receives no state funding, rescued 9,763 people in the UK and Ireland in 2015, and between April and June this year 2,361 rescue craft were launched.

First on to the stage were The Kings Pond Shantymen, formed in 2000 and led by captain John Hancox. The group, most of whom sport Captain Birdseye beards, sing in close harmony and totally unaccompanied. The 10 singers amused and delighted the audience with a programme of traditional sea shanties, drinking songs, and even a hymn or two at the other end of the musical spectrum. Each singer took it in turn to go solo to further demonstrate the unique talent of these men who perform throughout the year to raise funds for charities in this area.

The Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir were introduced by the choir’s master of ceremonies, who advised the audience that several of the choir members with other family commitments had gone the extra mile that day to make sure they were in Alton for the evening’s performance.

The choir’s three professional members – musical director David Last, pianist Jo Scullin and soloist Ieuan Jones – came together during the evening to perform as a trio on the piano with a honky-tonk American arrangement. And Ieuan’s solo yodelling could only be described as an amazing feat of vocal agility.

The Welsh choir, which fundraises on behalf of local and national charities, are this year celebrating their 50th anniversary. During their existence they have travelled extensively and have appeared on many television programmes, as well as with well-known personalities both in this country and abroad. As part of this year’s celebrations they undertook a 10-day European tour, the highlight of which was performing in Cologne Cathedral.

Now Alton had the opportunity to hear and see this outstanding 42-strong choir of Welshmen. The first half of their programme was dedicated to Welsh songs and hymns sung in their native language.

After the interval, when Gwyneth Partridge and her friends were kept busy serving wine and Welsh cakes, the choir opened the second half of the concert with a stirring rendering of Men of Harlech, followed by the hauntingly beautiful Myfanwy, dedicated to all those who died in the Aberfan disaster 50 years ago.

A selection of songs from around the world followed until the finale when the audience were able to join in with Beatles number Hey Jude to bring the concert to a rousing conclusion.

Hazel Chapman, chairman of the Alton branch of the RNLI, gave the vote of thanks with a few well chosen words in Welsh.

All those who attended the concert will be happy to know that The Maltings Centre has already been provisionally booked for a reappearance in 2017.

The local RNLI committee is hoping that the success of this event will increase interest in the work of the charity and any volunteers to help with their fundraising would be welcomed on board.

Sue Cansfield