The Beginning of a Welsh Choir
The early 1920’s were overshadowed by poverty and mass unemployment, and nowhere more so than in the South Wales coalfield. One evening two young out-of-work miners, Ben Jones and Emlyn Drew, who lived in Tylorstown, a village in the Rhondda Fach (the smaller of the two world-famous Rhondda valleys), decided to take advantage of their enforced leisure.
Other valleys had choirs, so why not Rhondda Fach? They contacted friends and former work-mates, and, within weeks, enough men had shown interest to make the idea a reality. They approached a local baker, who was an amateur musician with conducting experience, and he accepted their invitation to conduct a new ‘male voice’ choir, which was formally inaugurated on 24th May 1924 in the local Miners’ Federation hut.
Auditions were held in the vestry of Ebenezer Chapel, Tylorstown, each man being required to take a “voice test”. The story has it than many escaped through the windows rather than face this ordeal, but many more stayed, and passed the test. Within a short space of time the choir numbered 150 choristers, and outgrew the facilities of the chapel. It moved to Tylorstown Junior School, which was to be its home for the next 75 years. The original collier-choristers were joined by school-teachers, shopkeepers, and others from the local community, and walked to twice-weekly rehearsals, and to concerts.
Although depleted during the Second World War (many members having been called to the armed forces), the choir did not cease to function. It regained its former strength during the late 1940s/early 1950s, and has since had a constant membership of about 100 men, drawn from all walks of life in South Wales.