In 2024, the Latymer Madrigal Group will be making a spectacular return to mark the 50th anniversary of their USA tour!
They will be performing three ‘Madrigals’ celebrating the founding of the Latymer School, at the special 400th anniversary event at the Royal Festival Hall. Tickets for the event are available here.
Formed in 1967, the Latymer Madrigal Group was composed of a small group of strong singers who performed ‘Madrigals’ – secular songs developed in Italy that became particularly popular in late 16th century England.
The group achieved prominent success in the 1970s both domestically and internationally, becoming a well-recognised choir group in the process. After regular performances on the BBC’s ‘Music Workshop’ programme in the early 1970s, the Latymer Madrigal Group rose to new heights in August 1973, winning the Madrigal Class in the Welsh National Eisteddfod singing in Welsh, with this broadcast on Welsh radio and TV.
Alongside these achievements, members of the group were able to forge close-knit bonds, with the group becoming a vital part of the teenage years of many, as Sue Dell, class of 1975, explains:
“My abiding memories are that ALL the important things that teenagers go through happened there. Notably we fell in love with our friends, and out of love. To be involved in the music was thrilling and set many of us on a path of a musical life - in so many different ways. I've never met anyone, outside of the Latymer Madrigal Group, that treasures their school days like us.”
In December 1973, the group built on their earlier success, competing in the BBC/European Broadcasting Union’s ‘Let the People’s Sing’ competition, going on to win both the British and International School Class of the competition at the BBC Maida Vale Studios. They were awarded the BBC UK trophy for the outstanding British choir across all classes, an exceptional achievement, which provided them the chance to partake in a three-week tour of the USA and Canada the following year.
After a noteworthy performance at Huddersfield Town Hall in January 1974, singing Duruflé’s Requiem conducted by Sir David Willcocks, the Latymer Madrigal Group then proceeded to record the music for a ‘Stork Margarine’ TV commercial at Olympics Studios London with Cliff Adams.
Attention soon turned to the upcoming North American tour, with the group holding a 24-hour sponsored sing in Latymer School Old Hall in April 1974, helping to raise funds for the tour. This event was also verified by the Guinness Book of Records and featured in the Sunday Times and Telegraph (left).
In July and August of that year, the Latymer Madrigal Group were able to realise this superb opportunity, touring the USA and Canada singing on TV and giving concerts every day, an accomplishment that will always be cherished by those involved.
These experiences are something that helped individuals in the group flourish and were integral in moulding them as the people they are today, something that resonates with Joan Veysey, class of 1974:
“We often hear that music is soul food – that is definitely my lived experience, which has been shaped by singing though my teenage years with amazing people, who still share that musical bond 50 years on. So, singing in the music rooms at Latymer, in the beautiful setting of Cwm Penmachno or touring the USA together, I am so thankful for the musical legacy and memories that Latymer has given me.“
Yet fittingly, the final achievement of the group in the 1970s took place closer to home. In September 1974, the group recorded an LP during the middle of the night, in order to avoid traffic noise, at St Alphege Church, Edmonton and Latymer Old Hall.
Keith Whiddon, class of 1974, still holds extremely fond memories of the joyous spirit and extensive list of opportunities the group were able to partake in, with the legacy of the Madrigal Group something that will stand the test of time.
“In normal day-to-day life there are always countless tasks and distractions. Singing emotionally-charged pieces with a small group of close friends put us in the moment – nothing else mattered – we were of a collective mind. We learned camaraderie, tolerance, self-confidence, how to listen, to rely on others and be relied on yourself, how to work to a common goal - skills it takes others a lifetime to learn - if indeed they ever do.”
“Our shared memories have become our own Group folklore: travelling across North America in our own tour coach; walks up over the tramway to Blaenau for a milk shake; singing in an empty church in the middle of the night; not realising that we’d won the National Eisteddfod as the results were just in Welsh; those wonderfully creative cabaret turns at Cwm; the list is as joyous as it is endless.”
“Fifty years may have passed by but our bonds are timeless - the fact that so many of us have agreed to perform together at the Festival Hall in 2024 is testament to that. To know that you are never alone in life, but are part of a close-knit family is a very special gift.”
You can view pictures of the Madrigal Group and many more quotes from its members in the Photogallery.