4.2 Welsh Choirs of the Present Day

The choirs came to be the expression of solidarity among a people, who were sup­pressed in their own land. Apart from the chapel movement and the influence of the eisteddfods it was especially miners in the coal-mining, tinplate and slate communities who led to the flourishing of the male voice choirs.

The following male voice choirs especially are considered to be among the best in the country: Pendyrus, Rhos, Pontarddulais, Morriston Orpheus, Treorchy, Llanelli and Mor­riston Rugby male choirs. Many of these regularly go on tours to all parts of the world, and warm friendships are made in this way.

The Treorchy Male Choir was founded in 1946. It has been extremely successful for over 50 years now and has turned into a Welsh legend. The choir has won the National Eisteddfod more often than any other choir and has produced more records than any other Welsh male choir. It has made tours all over the world (Australia, Canada, USA etc.) and has "became an admirable ambassador for Wales".[1]

The equally famous Pendyrus Male Choir comes from the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, and came into being over 100 years ago as a miners' choir. It now comprises about 100 members who come from all kinds of occupations (architects, teachers, miners, masons, a tax inspector, rugby player etc.).

The choir's repertoire includes Schubert's “Ave Maria“, “Di Provenza il Mar“ from Verdi's “La Traviata“ the Russian “Kalinka“ and “Myfanwy“ which alongside “Mae hen wlad fy Nhadau“ ("Land of my fathers") can almost be considered as a second Welsh national anthem.

The Morriston Orpheus Choir [2] was established in 1935 and has been for a long time one of the three best Welsh choirs. It has toured all over the world (even New Zealand and America). Its great success is mainly due to its conductor and musical director Alwyn Humphreys whose principal aims are to increase and vary the choir's repertoire, i.e. to have them sing not only Welsh hymns, but also Elvis songs and to make a kind of  big show out of their performance in order to reach out to the audience and captivate it. 
Alwyn Humphreys has a very charismatic personality and has even been desribed as "probably the most charming man on the planet" [3] by an American newspaper.

The Pontarddulais Male Choir [4] was just formed in 1960 and made a name for itself in the Welsh world of music in the mid 60s when it won one eisteddfod after the other.
The choir has a very wide repertoire which ranges from Welsh hymns to famous classical works such as "The pilgrims chorus" by Wagner and folk songs from different nations such as Russia.

The Mynydd Mawr Choir[5] was formed in 1965 and had already been very successful when they won the National Eisteddfod in 1970. The choir's conductor, John Rhyddid Williams, is not only a well-known conductor and judge at the competitions, but has also written a lot of famous books on penillion singing and folk songs. My great-uncle, Aneurin Morgan, was a member of this choir and his son still is.

The male choirs still attract a lot of members among the older generation but young blood is lacking. Few of the once very popular mixed choirs still exist. The leading choirs of this type are the Cardiff Polyphonic, the Swansea Bach Choir, Cantorion ty Ddewi, Côr Blewthum, Côr Aberteifi A'r Cylch and the Pembrokeshire Youth Choir.

For the Royal National Eisteddfod, a mixed choir of some 200-300 voices is formed some two years before the Eisteddfod week begins, drawn from within the surrounding area of the Eisteddfod venue. The choir is required to perform various choral works and all the works are sung in Welsh.

The National Youth Choir of Wales was formed in 1994. The workshops and summer camps demand a lot of  time from the choristers who come from all parts of Wales.

Today Cardiff is the seat of the Welsh National 0pera, which has risen above the pro­vincial standard and whose choir, according to the estimation of Geraint Evans, can be compared without hesitation to that of the Scala in Milan.


[1] cf. http://freespace.virgin.net/geoffrey.howard1/ 
[2]
cf. Western Mail Magazine, 13-03-1999 and record cover
[3]
cf. Western Mail Magazine 13-03-1999
[4]
cf. record cover in file of documents
[5]
cf. record cover with photo in file of documents

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