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CÔr Meibion Pontypridd

 
   

Cor Meibion Pontypridd was founded following a meeting of a small group of men at the Educational Settlement of the town’s Y.M.C.A. on November 19th 1949. During its early years the choir was known as the Pontypridd Educational Settlement Male Choir. Mr Gwilym T Jones, who at the time was a renowned conductor and pianist, became its first conductor. He had previously conducted choirs including Cwmparc Male Voice Choir, Royal Welsh Male Choir and Treorchy and District Male Voice choir. In 1926, he took up the baton in front of Pontypridd and District Male Voice Choir. Two years later he accepted the additional duties of conducting Llanharan Male Voice Choir.

The choir’s first concert was a private one for the Cilfynydd Old Age Pensioners in the summer of 1950. In November of that year the choir performed in the Shelley Hall at their first annual concert. A month later the choir gave the first of its 14 consecutive Christmas night concerts at the old Graig Hospital. It became a tradition that the choir was entertained to Christmas cake and tea by the Hospital Administrator of that time. The concerts ceased with the reconstruction of the hospital in 1965. The first competition for the choir to enter was at a semi-national eisteddfod held at Llanharan on June 23rd, 1951. Remarkably they were awarded first prize and received considerable praise. Reading the report that appeared in the Pontypridd Observer one can appreciate their achievement. 

By the time of the choir’s second annual concert in November 1951, they were known as the Pontypridd and District Y.M.C.A Male Voice Choir. People from further afield were given the opportunity to hear the choir when they made their first BBC recording in June 1956. It featured in a programme about the centenary of the composing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and the Bi-centenary of the building of the Old Bridge. A major concert was also held as part of the celebrations in the Town Hall. This was to be the last concert that Mr Gwilym T. Jones was to conduct. He died on December 31st, 1956 and a plaque to his memory was unveiled in the Shelley Hall in September 1957.

Following his death Mr William J. Evans, father of the opera singer Sir Geraint Evans, was appointed leader of the choir in January 1957. Previously, he had formed the Handel Glee Party in 1932 that won many prizes at various eisteddfodau during its short lifetime. He had also formed the Cilfynydd Philharmonic Choir in 1950. Under his guidance, Pontypridd and District Y.M.C.A. Male Voice choir flourished and their performances attracted large audiences. A memorable occasion on the concert platform was when the choir shared a stage with Sir Harry Secombe and Sir Geraint Evans at the Town Hall Theatre, Pontypridd in November 1959. Success also came on the competitive field and several first prizes were won at semi-national eisteddfodau. The following year the choir relinquished its connection with the YMCA and its title became the Pontypridd Male Choir. However by the time Mr William J Evans’ retired from the conductorship in January 1964 the choir was known as Cor Meibion Pontypridd.

His natural successor was Miss Joyce Durston, the choir’s accompanist since 1957.  She had already led Cor Meibion Pontypridd with distinction during the period of Mr William Evans’ illness and had previously made of name for herself as the conductor of the Christie Singers, a choir of some 24 young ladies.  Cor Meibion Pontypridd succeeded in winning the semi national eisteddfod at Cardigan in May 1964 when they made their first eisteddfod appearance under her conductorship and was an indication that greater things were to follow.  They went to Germany on their first foreign tour in September 1965 and gave a series of concerts in Nurtingen, the German twin town of Pontypridd.  The following year saw a male choir from Nurtingen visit Pontypridd.  Tours continued over the years and family friendships were established during these exchange visits.  One highlight of Cor Meibion Pontypridd’s early foreign tours was receiving a request from West German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger in August 1968 to perform at his private palace in Bebenhausen Palace near Stuttgart.  The performance was later shown on television.

Joyce Durston

Joyce Durston

21st Anniversary Concert Programme

21st Anniversary Concert Programme

The following years witnessed some of the choir’s greatest success.  A twenty-first anniversary celebrity concert was held in Tabernacl Chapel on November 19th 1970.  A telegram was of congratulation was received and read out from Mr Stuart Burrows.  Two years later, Cor Meibion Pontypridd was one of twelve choirs to perform at the 1,000 voices concert at the Royal Albert Hall.   In June 1973, members of the choir were invited to appear on stage with Marlene Dietrich after she heard them sing outside the New Theatre Cardiff where she was appearing.  Later that month they competed against twelve other male choirs from various parts of Wales and became the first choir to win a choral competition on television.  They were presented with the H.T.V trophy and a cheque for £250.  The following year was the choir’s silver jubilee year.  Cor Meibion Pontypridd marked the event by winning the male voice choir competition for choirs between 40 and 70 voices at the National Eisteddfod held at Carmarthen.  It was the first time a choir led by woman conductor had triumphed in the event’s history.  Following further successful concerts and a Polish tour in 1976, Joyce Durston resigned in November 1977.  Under her guidance, the choir had experienced many successes both at home and abroad and it was with great regret that her long association with the choir was finally severed.

Dorothy Davies-Ingram, who had been the accompanist for Cor Meibion Pontypridd since 1964, was appointed as the choir’s musical director.  She had previously been a member of the Shelley Singers.  Jonathan Guillford joined the choir as accompanist.  Dorothy Davies-Ingram made her debut as the choir’s musical director at the Festival of 1,000 Voices at the Afan Lido Aberavon in December 1977. In 1989 she became the first woman to conduct the 1,000 Welsh Voices at the Royal Albert Hall.  The year also marked the choir’s 40th anniversary.  As part of their celebrations Cor Meibion Pontypridd appeared in a gala concert with Liederkranz Obersingen (Male Choir) of Nurtingen in July at Hawthorn Leisure Centre.  During the same year, Dorothy Davies-Ingram decided to change her role and became both deputy conductor and accompanist while Jonathan Gulliford took up the position of director of music.

Dorothy Davies-Ingram

Dorothy Davies-Ingram

St Davids Day 2008 Concert Programme

St Davids Day 2008 Concert Programme

More recently, Cor Meibion Pontypridd have enjoyed several memorable tours.  They travelled to the U.S.A. during the year of their 50th anniversary in 1999 and returned four years later.  Cor Meibion Pontypridd hosted a five day visit by Liederkranz Obersingen in 2005 to celebrate a 40 year history of friendship between the two choirs.  In 2008 the choir staged successful concerts in Cyprus and this year will see Cor Meibion Pontypridd visit Nurtingen  in southern Germany. Audiences today continue to enjoy the choir’s high standards of musical performance.
© 2011 Rhondda Cynon Taf Library Service