The Welsh Choirs

The Welsh nation are famous for their singing. Along with the mining industry, agricultural produce and rugby singing is what people associate with the Welsh. Many famous singers have hailed from the Principality including Tom Jones, Katherine Jenkins, Max Boyce, Cerys Matthews and the Stereophonics. To be at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and to hear the crowd singing in unison “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” before a Wales v England rugby game is an experience in itself.

Treorchy as famous for its choir as for its mining

Another choir that reflected the reasons for the growth in welsh choirs was the Dunvant Male Voice Choir. The choir was formed in 1895 by a group of miners, steel workers, and quarryman and as time has passed by newer younger members have been introduced by their relatives.

There are currently around 75 registered male voice choirs in Wales. Many of them are steeped in history and reflect the reasons why singing became such an important part of the Welsh culture. The oldest choir in Wales is the Treorchy male voice choir which dates back to the summer of 1883. From the start they were successful but when they wanted William Thomas to be their conductor he only did so under the proviso that they moved their rehearsals away from the local public house to a local school. Treorchy was a mining village and many of its members would spend their days working down the pit and then they would clean up and rush to the choir rehearsals. The success of the choir gave many of its members a real sense of worth, as the choir achieved success at a national scale. It actually leads to many successful overseas tours to places as far afield as Australia.

Port Talbot steel works where many choristers would work

The nonconformist Christianity that dominated the Welsh churches also encouraged their congregations to join the choirs. The young men were happy to join as there was very little else to do back then and it was an opportunity to socialise in the evenings However, in recent years the older industries have closed down and the church isn’t as influential as it once was. Nowadays there is far more social activities to do and to join a choir is not seen as the thing to do for a young male in a working-class part of Wales The Dunvant Male Voice Choir’s membership is now dominated by those over 60 years of age and the choirs are working tirelessly to maintain their numbers. Yet there is an optimistic view that as the young become old they too will want to join the choirs.

There is no doubt that the choirs of Wales have had troubles in recent times maintaining their numbers. The young no longer gravitate naturally to the rehearsal halls at the end of a day’s work. However, Wales like many other developed countries is experiencing an ageing population. More of the population in Wales will be in their sixties and over, and there is no doubt that one thing that does improve with age is one’s voice. The excellence that this nation’s choirs produce is legendary. It is a legacy that every Welshmen wishes to continue and there is no doubt that it will continue in the future through the male voice choirs.

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