A choral conductor who has been conducting a children’s choir since the shadow years of World War II will this week lead his youth singers with pride as they reach the Semi-Finals of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent.
Wales’ Angelicus Celtis comprise of everyday schoolgirls aged 12 and up from the ranks of the Hywel Girls’ Choir led by conductor John Hywel Williams who has nurtured over 8,000 choristers since founding his children’s choir in 1948.
Angelicus Celtis gave an emotional first performance on Britain’s Got Talent where their unique rendition of Nessun Dorma got the 2,500 audience and the four judges immediately on their feet.
A Tribute from Tragedy
As Wales’ only act through to the Semi-Finals, Angelicus Celtis’ performance was an emotional one in many ways but particularly for their conductor who created the idea of Angelicus Celtis with his wife Jean and son Jeremy but his wife Jean was killed in a car crash and never heard her beloved Angelicus choristers sing.
John and Jean had been leading children’s choirs together in the community as husband and wife for over 50 years together and the whole family was excited with the idea of forming Angelicus Celtis.
“I remember us chatting about Angelicus over the dining table as a family”, said son Jeremy. “The conversation was filled with excitement at the evolving ideas for music and opportunities for a group of schoolgirls.”
Not long afterwards and before the birth of Angelicus Celtis, John and Jean had just given a VE Day Remembrance Concert for veterans with their Hywel Choirs in their home town of Llanelli. Having just enjoyed a standing ovation finale, John and Jean left the concert stage but within feet of the venue they were involved in car crash. John was badly injured and Jean was sadly killed. Despite his ongoing injuries, John fought back to be there for his choristers and make Angelicus happen. Sadly, Jean never heard her beloved Angelicus choristers perform.
Despite his ongoing injuries, John Hywel Williams has striven to make Angelicus a success.
“We would truly value everyone’s support by voting for us in the semi-finals” said 12 year old Rebecca Lewis of Burry Port, the youngest member of the group. “It’s the ultimate mark of respect to Mr Williams and his late wife Mrs Williams who have between them dedicated over 100 years of voluntary work in teaching and nurturing thousands of children in singing and music.”
Just Everyday Schoolgirls!
There are no auditions for the choristers which come from the Hywel Girls’ Choir and are just everyday schoolgirls in every sense of the word. They were selected on the basis of their commitment and hard work and willingness to learn. As they prepare for the Semi-Finals, many of the girls are juggling school work and facing school exams.
“I am so very proud of my choristers because they are just everyday school girls and for me that’s their real magic”, said John Hywel Williams. “To see an everyday pupil work hard and walk off that stage that little taller in life in confidence, pride and sense of achievement is simply priceless.”
A Legacy of Dedication
Since founding his children’s choir in 1948, John Hywel has dedicated his life to his voluntary work of his choirs and been a pioneer of the Welsh choral scene. The list of his voluntary achievements is impressive:
· 1952 – first international concert tour to The Netherlands
· The first British Choir to tour behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s with tours to Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Yugoslavia
· The first British amateur choir to tour the Soviet Union
· 25 international concert tours
· 850+ concert performances
· 180+ television and radio broadcasts from the UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Spain, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and a Eurovision performance from Belgrade
· Television and radio broadcasts reaching 120 countries worldwide
· 8,000+ pupils taught
· 5,500+ rehearsals with his choristers!
John Hywel met his wife Jean through his choir in the mid-1950s when he hired a new pianist and she got the position. A romance and marriage subsequently followed starting a 50 year musical partnership which would give thousands of children life changing opportunities but a partnership which sadly and tragically ended just minutes after a final standing ovation.
Judges’ Fabulous Feedback
After performing Nessun Dorma on Britain’s Got Talent, the 17 young singers aged 12 and up were clearly in emotional shock as the 2,500 strong audience and the four judges immediately gave the schoolgirls a standing ovation.
Simon Cowell said: “I’ve heard this song a lot. But this was, in my opinion, the most beautiful ever. It really touched me and I thought it was sensational.” Amanda Holden added, “You are the most lovely bunch of girls”. Alyesha Dixon called it “heavenly” while David Walliams tweeted “This is musical perfection.”
Since then, the group has been flooded with messages from home and abroad and are bowled over by the giant wave of thousands of messages they’ve received.
“We are truly amazed at amount of lovely and thoughtful comments sent and shared”, said 14-year old chorister Megan. “It’s really touching and very humbling.”
The fate of Angelicus in the Live Semi-Finals will be decided by the viewing public. Angelicus Celtis can be seen in the Semi-Finals of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent at 7.30pm on Thursday 1st June.