history of the choir
As the youngsters of the Pontarddulais Youth Club reached their official leaving age towards the end of the 1950s, the young men amongst them felt a strong desire to continue with the rich and successful choral activities they had experienced in the Club.
They turned for advice to the charismatic leader of those musical activities, Noel Davies. That is the beginning of a story that continues today, with a decision in 1960 to establish a new male voice choir – a particularly brave initiative in an area already renowned for its famous and successful male choirs.
With Noel Davies at the helm, membership grew remarkably quickly, and within a short period of time the new choir achieved impressive successes in concert halls and eisteddfodau. By 1963, the membership having burgeoned to 120 singers, Pontarddulais Male Choir gained the first prize in the ‘Chief Male Choir’ competition at the Llandudno National Eisteddfod. This was the beginning of an unrivalled record of victories in Wales’s premier competitive festival - 17 to date, with the latest of them at Cardiff in 2018. Furthermore, the choir achieved countless first prizes at the major eisteddfodau of Cardigan and Pontrhydfendigaid as well as the Miners' Eisteddfod in Porthcawl. Success also came at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 2001 and again in 2004.
Over more than half a century, the Choir has performed in concerts throughout Britain and across Europe, as well as in Canada and the United States, often in prestigious concert halls, churches and cathedrals. There have been constant broadcasts on radio and television at home and abroad, and the Choir has appeared at many prestigious international events. Importantly over the years the Choir has captured its unique sound for posterity on countless records, tapes and compact disks.
As his long and dedicated career as Musical Director drew to a close in 2002, after 42 years of tireless and remarkable service, Noel Davies was able to look back on an incredible contribution to the musical life of the nation. But the Choir’s story did not end with his retirement. After a period as accompanist of the Choir, Clive Phillips became a worthy successor as Musical Director, continuing with the principles established by his predecessor in emphasizing anew diversity in the repertoire, ranging from the light in nature to contemporary classical music; the importance of singing in the Welsh language, as well as other languages; and an unequivocal commitment to the principle of competition.
It is testimony to the sense of close fraternity within the Choir that some of the original members of the Youth Club are still singing with the Choir, and that many of the current singers have given fifty years and more of service. In addition to maintaining standards over the years, ‘Côr Y Bont’ has managed to sustain its numerical strength, to this day still boasting over a hundred voices.
In the early years, many choristers worked in the local coal, steel and tinplate industries, with the remainder in various occupations in education, the civil service, local government and so on. Today, naturally enough, the majority of members are enjoying retirement, though singing and performing are central to that retirement of course.
In his book, Great Welsh Voices Alun Guy writes:
"The general consensus among critics and reviewers alike is that the combination of voices of more than a hundred members of this choir produces the best amateur choral sound not only in Wales but in Britain and beyond."
The choir continues to welcome new members of all ages, and if you are interested in joining, the first step would be to come along to one of the twice weekly rehearsals at the Primary School, James Street, Pontarddulais, on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7 and 9 o'clock (except August or bank holidays). There you can enjoy the singing and experience how the singers set about learning the music. You will also become aware of the camaraderie and light hearted humour within the Choir’s ranks. You do not need any special vocal abilities, nor any previous experience of singing, nor indeed the ability to read music. The main essentials are the ability to sing in tune and a willingness to engage in learning. By joining the Choir, your singing voice along with your reading, whether sol-fa or staff notation, will gradually develop and flourish.
Of course, as well as potential members, the general public are always welcome in our practices. It is worth checking with the Secretary of your intention to visit in case there is a temporary change in the practice venue.
We hope you enjoy browsing through our website, and perhaps we shall be able to welcome you to one of our concerts in the future.
Please contact the Secretary if you are interested in inviting the Choir to perform.
Noel Davies MBE
Musical Director 1960-2002
What a night, not enough superlatives to describe the fantastic evening we had last Saturday.- MYRA THOMAS
Ros what a personality and what a repertoire, stunning.
Thank you all so much and Clive you did us proud.
Thank you gentlemen for a fantastic concert this evening at Ebennezer Chapel Port Talbot it was wonderful performance from the choir. Thank you!- KEITH SMITH
Your choir left me speechless. Wonderful singing. Well done all of you!- GEORGE LYNCH
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