Gwalia Singers

(Swansea)
Gwalia logo
Cantorion Gwalia

(Abertawe)


1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

 

Previous decade: the 1980s

 

 

1990

 

A trip abroad to Ireland was the year’s highlight although cancellation of a trip to Spain was necessary due to unforeseen circumstances.

 

The choir again visited Bridgenorth and Bournemouth.

 

Success at Pontrhydfendigaed, Cardigan and the Miner’s Eisteddfodau were again forthcoming.

 

A very successful concert was held with the London Welsh Male Voice Choir at Tabernacle Chapel in Morriston.

 

The practice venue was moved from the Civil Service Club to the St. Helen’s Club and later to the Cockett Hall.

 

The choir celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special Annual Concert.

 

It was agreed for the first time that commemorative ties signifying a member’s service should be presented by the Musical Director at appropriate concerts or functions.

 

 

1991

 

Choir membership increased to 46 but there was concern about absenteeism and commitment to concerts. Success in recruitment was considered due to holding a choir “open night”.

 

 

1992

 

The choir took part in the Choir of the World event in Cardiff.

 

Visits were made to the Shobdon flower festival and to Farnham.

 

At the Annual Concert for the first time the musical guests were the Talycoppa Primary School.

 

 

1993

 

A trip was made to Lanzarote – Canary Islands.

 

 

The famous Jameos de Aqua caves complex formed a spectacular venue for a concert by Swansea's Gwalia Singers during a week-long tour of Lanzarote.

   More than 1,000 people filled the natural auditorium for the choir's inaugural performance in a four-concert tour arranged in response to an invitation from the Lanzarotian Choir.

   The British Consul and the Cabildo, the representative of the Spanish Government on the island, were among the audience.

   The choir also performed with their hosts at the castle in Arricefe. the capital of Lanzarote, at a nightclub in Puerto del Carmen and at a centre run by the Norwegian Red Cross for the handicapped and disabled.

   Their soprano soloist for the tour was Hazell Howells from Gorseinon.

 

 

The choir again took part in Choir of the World in Cardiff.

 

The Annual Concert was again held with the Talycoppa School Choir in St Mary’s Church, Swansea.

 

The Annual Dinner was held at the Langland Bay Hotel.

 

The planned trips to Atlanta, Georgia and to Walsall had not been able to take place.

 

Choir membership was maintained at 46 with several new members.

 

Don Frame, past Chairman and Stagemanager, died. He was the first active member of the choir to die since the choir started, and this had a profound affect on the choir at the time.

 

 

1994

 

The choir gave its first performance in Dan-Yr-Ogof caves. Right in the heart of the famous Cathedral Cave the acoustics it seemed would be very difficult with the water flowing heavily from the internal waterfalls, but surprise, surprise, just as the choir were about to sing, pumps were switched off and the waterfall magically stopped leaving an eerie silence. The concert was subsequently a great success.

 

A trip was made to Ilfracombe and the choir took part in the Cardigan Eisteddfod achieving 2nd place.

 

A concert was given at the Radio Wales Show in the Grand Theatre.

 

The Annual Concert featured young soloist Christopher Griffiths and the Memphis Seven Jazz Band.

 

Social events included the Annual Dinner Dance at the Hilton Hotel and the Hwyrnos evening in Green Dragon Lane.

 

Concerts were held with Owen Money in Penyrheol School, Mumbles British Legion, with the Singleton Singers in Oystermouth and at the Giltar Hotel in Tenby.

 

 

1995

 

The choir made its second visit to Lanzarote, staying at Puerto El Carmen and gave a joint concert with a local ladies choir in the centre of Arrecife, in the monastery at Tequise and at morning service in St. Mary’s Church, followed by an encore at the pub in Puerto El Carmen.

 

A first overnight visit was made to the village of Bratton Clovelly in Devon with a concert in aid of the local church. Despite the village having a population of around 100 the church was packed with nearly 600 people.

 

Performances were made at two weddings in Cadoxton and Gloucester Cathedral.

 

The Annual Dinner Dance was held at the Swansea Rugby & Cricket Club and a visit was made to “Scrooge” at the Bristol Hippodrome.

 

Links were re-established with Mannheim and a visit made by officers to Germany to link with the Teutonia Choir.

 

 

1996

 

Probably one of the most eventful years in the choir’s history. The founder and Musical Director, Bryan Myles, resigned from the choir together with his deputy and accompanist. This created a split in the choir and several long serving members also resigned. The Committee however was quick to rally the choir and obtained the temporary services of Hugh Rees – Deputy Musical Director of the Morriston Orpheus – who conducted the choir through a difficult patch assisted by contract accompanist, Martin Bell. The need for a more permanent accompanist was obvious and the services of a young primary school teacher, Simon Oram, were subsequently obtained. Several concerts were held under the batonship of Huw Rees and later in the year it was agreed that Simon Oram should be appointed the new Musical Director and the Mary Bessenich was appointed Accompanist.

 

The choir returned to the competition scene under Simon’s leadership and was successful in winning 3rd place at the Miner’s Eisteddfod.

 

The Annual Concert was again held at St Mary’s Church. Compered by Huw Rees, it featured Jason Bellis (Tenor), Gorseinon Chamber Choir and Dudley Owen. The choir also performed concerts in Newton, and the Dolphin Hotel.

 

 

Swansea's Gwalia Singers presented their 1996 Annual Concert at St Mary's Church on Friday, October 11, in celebration of their 30th anniversary.

   This was their first annual concert under the baton of their new musical director, Simon Oram, who had selected a programme of mixed light and serious items in the Gwalia tradition.

   The evening was compered by Huw Rees, deputy conductor of the Morriston Orpheus choir who also conducted one of the items and the communal singing at the end of the concert. The choir's accompanist and organist was Martin Bell, assisted by Mary Bessenich. Invaluable assistance in presenting the concert was provided by the members of the Gwalias' Ladies Section and by a band of former Gwalia Singers.

   The supporting artistes brought added enjoyment to the very large audience with the fine quality of their contributions. The Gorseinon College Chamber Choir, under the direction of Les and Penelope Ryan and with harpist Nia Sian Jones, delighted everyone with their smooth, professional performance; Jason Bellis' fine, lyrical tenor voice thrilled the audience; and Dudley Owen, ex-Gwalia Singer and now London West End performer, with his accompanist Julie Sims, brought an added touch of excellence with his excerpts from 'Fiddler on the Roof' and 'The Boy with a Cart' (Christopher Fry).

   The audience, including guests from Mannheim Teutonic Choir, thoroughly enjoyed an evening of 'quality' entertainment.

 

 

Terry Osborn was appointed Chairman.

 

 

1997

 

The choir again spent a weekend at Bratton Clovelly and were entertained by their hosts as well as giving an outstanding concert in aid of the local church.

 

The choir again visited Mannheim, this time twinned with the G.V. Teutonia Male Voice choir. The choir left Swansea on Saturday 24th May and returned on Tuesday 27th May. German families hosted members, many of whom could not speak English but this added to the enjoyment. The joint choirs gave a large concert attended by the Mayor of Mannheim and received a standing ovation for their performance particularly for those rendered in German – “O welche Lust” and “Aus der Traube”. Some memorable trips were made to the surrounding country including one wine-growing area where the choir had lunch and were asked to sing in the street. Accompanist Mary Bessenich had no music or piano and proceeded accurately to hum the accompaniment. This was clearly a success as after the performance a 2-gallon wineglass (full) was passed around the Teutonia and Gwalia choir ranks! Many long-term relationships were made with the Teutonia choir at this visit.

 

Photo of choir, family and friends at Heidelberg

Choir members, families and friends visiting Heidelberg

 

The choir returned to the competitive field again and recorded successes at Bailey Lane End, Cardigan Eisteddfod and the Miner’s Eisteddfod.

 

A travel show was attended in Bournemouth and a concert given to support the Welsh Tourist Board.

Nick Rogers was appointed as Deputy Musical Director

 

The Annual Concert took place at St Paul’s Church, Sketty, and featured Bronwen Evans [soprano] and the Gorseinon College brass and string ensembles.

 

Cutting from paper

 

 

1998

 

Recruitment continued to be successful and the choir membership returned to 43.

 

The Pan Celtic Festival was held in Tralee, Ireland, and the Gwalia Singers decided to compete. After a lengthy trip by ferry and bus it was found that the competition venue had to be changed as the local council had decided it was the right time to dig up the road outside the festival venue and it was impossible singing against percussion hammer noise. The choir failed to win 1st prize for the best choir under 40 voices. It also failed to win 1st prize for the best overall choir but just as disappointment was about to set in, the organisers announced a prize for the best song sung in any competition by a choir who had not won any other competition and this was for the Gwalia Singers' rendering of “Ar Hyd Y Nos” which had brought tears to the adjudicators eyes. Surprisingly the prize money was higher than the first prize in the other two competitions!

 

The choir performed again at the Pontrhydfendigaed, Tumble and Miner’s Eisteddfodau with mixed results.

 

Rhian Liles joined the choir as Accompanist after resignation by Mary Bessenich.

 

Sponsorship of the Annual Concert at Brunswick Methodist was made by Gwalia Housing. It starred Bass Baritone Martin Lloyd and the Gorseinon College Choir.

 

Vernon Simons was appointed Chairman.

 

A special concert was held in December of Christmas music in All Saint’s Church, Oystermouth, together with the Swansea Ladies Excelsior Choir.

 

 

1999

 

Rehearsals moved for a while to the Abbey at Swansea University.

 

Choir photo at Swansea University

 

The Annual Concert took place for the first time at Trinity Welsh Presbyterian Church, Uplands, on a very hot and sultry evening. The chapel was packed for the concert and with little ventilation there were frequent water breaks for the choir. The concert featured the Celtic Brass and the choir was again accompanied by Talycoppa School Choir.

 

The choir celebrated a special dinner dance along with the Teutonia Choir at Ashley's Restaurant.

 

The choir again visited Lanzarote and sung at two concerts with a memorable impromptu concert at the beach pub and later at the Pink Pussy Bar.

 

Success was found again in competition with the choir gaining first prize at the Tumble and Miner’s Eisteddfodau.

 

Cutting from paper

 

The choir joined with many other choirs to make 1,000 voices for a grand Welsh concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

 

Rhian Liles was accepted to study music at Cardiff College of Music and for a short time, Catherine Webster became Accompanist. Mary Bessenich returned temporarily until Stephen Wilson joined the choir as Accompanist.

 

The choir continued to perform concerts at Stroud, Leamington Spa, Tenby and Murton.

 

The choir took part again at the Travel Fair in Bournemouth singing to promote tourism in Wales.

 

Photo of choir at Bournemouth Holiday Festival

Performing at the Bournemouth Holiday Festival.

 

 

Next decade: the 2000s

 

 

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s