May 21, 2009

Cor Meibion Morlais - The Choir With A Sense of Humour

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Cor Meibion Morlais performing for the Chris Corcoran Committee Meeting (comedy show) at the Muni, Pontypridd. Please see the choir's website for more details: Full size the video screen for full comedic effect.

Americymru: The Choir is based in Ferndale in the Rhondda Valley. How strong is the choral tradition in the Rhondda in the 21st century?

The Rhondda still boasts 5 Male Choirs with around a membership of 340 voices.

Americymru: Can you tell us a little about the history of the choir?

Cor Meibion Morlais was formed in 1928 as a chapel guild choir, in order to entertain the chapel members through the winter months. It soon developed into a capable singing ensemble , entering and winning many eisteddfodau and giving concerts throughout South Wales.

The choir has an unbroken 81 year history and has only had 5 conductors throughout its existance.The choir has travelled extensively throughout the U.K together with an impressive 19 overseas tours, visiting Germany twice, Holland twice,France five times, Belgium, Spain, Ireland,Hungary, Czech Republic, Finland, Estonia,Canada twice, and the U.S.A.

The choir has just secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to research and write a book on the choir's history. The funding also allows for the production of a DVD about the choir , together with the preperation of an archive / museum exhibition.

This funding has been complimented by funding from The Heads of the Valleys Regeneration Partnership which will enable the choir to convert its own rehearsal facility, the Morlais Hall , into a Visitor / Cultural Centre .

The choir's website carries press releases on this subject in more detail

Americymru: Were there strong connections in the past between the choir and the mining industry in the Rhondda Valleys?

At the time of the choir's formation and up until the 1950's the mining industry provided the majority of choir members.

Americymru: How large is your choir, who are your members and what are their positions in the choir?

Currently, the choir has 44 members, ranging in age from 19 to 75. We currently have three 19 year old members, all studying at University. Their subjects at University are Music , Law and Radiology.

Conductor, John Asquith is a freelance linguist and also works with the Welsh National Opera Company as Vocal Coach in foreign languages.

Accompanist, Rosalie Evans is a freelance accompanist, piano teacher and she also works for the Welsh National Opera Max as a Repetiteur.

Chairman, Nigel Morgan is a Business Executive with British Gas , one of the U.K.'s largest energy suppliers.

Vice Chairman, John Nash is a Director of a Training Services provider.

Treasurer , Huw Jones is an Accountant.

Secretary, Byron Young is retired and was formerly a Senior Manager in the manufacturing industry.

Americymru: How does someone join the choir, what is your selection process?

The selection process by which the choir selects new members is not too complicated.

New members are usually introduced into the choir by a friend or work colleague,or sometimes they just turn up at one of our rehearsals and ask to join. Our Conductor will allow him to sit in on the first night wherever he may feel comfortable but and the end of the rehearsal ,the conductor will invite him to sing a couple of scales for him. The new member will then be told by the conductor in which section of the choir he will be singing in. The new member serves a 3 month probation , during which he will be expected to attend as many rehearsals as is possible. This also allows the choir to, learn a little more about him . At the end of the 3 months the choir's committee and conductor will review his application to join the choir and make a decision, as to whether he becomes a full member of the choir.

Americymru: What kind of committment do your choir members make, what's expected of them?

The choir rehearses each Tuesday and Friday from 7.30pm until 9pm. Extra rehearsals may be called whenever the demand on the choir becomes too much for the normal 2 rehearsals each week. Concert engagements vary each year but the past 2 years we have performed at 30 engagements, each year and 2009 appears to be heading the same way. Choir members are expected to attend a minimum of 50% of rehearsals but the choir accepts that family and work has to take priority over the choir.

Cor Meibion Morlais performing for the Chris Corcoran Committee Meeting (comedy show) at the Muni, Pontypridd. Please see the choir's website for more details: Full size the video screen for full comedic effect.

Americymru: What kind of events do you typically perform at?

Our full concerts will last for around 2 hours but we also perform at Pre Dinner or After Dinner engagements for usually 45 minutes. Singing at Weddings are another demand on the choir. In 2006 we performed at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, in Halifax, Canada, singing at 10 performances for audiences of around 7,000 people. Being adaptable and willing to try new things are vitally important in order to change with the times.

Americymru: Do you have a season or perform year round? How many performances in a year?

We perform all year round and end up having to turn down engagements simply because we are an amateur choir , whose members work for a living. 2009, we're on track for 30 engagements this year.

Americymru: Does the choir have standards or pieces that it's known for or gets asked to perform specifically?

We are very often asked to perform items that people have heard us sing on our CDs. For special occasions we have learnt pieces of music outside our normal repertoire, The Beatles " All you need is love", Ting Tings " That's not my name", Pulp's " Common People", John Denver's " Annie's Song", to name just a few.

Americymru: In 2008 you toured Finland and Estonia. Can you describe that experience for us?

Our 2008 tour to Finland and Estonia was a wonderfull experience for our choristers and their wives who made the tour. The highlight was probably singing " Finlandia" in Welsh and Finnish to the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament in the Parliament Building.

Americymru: Where can people obtain recordings of your performances?

Our website gives details on how to purchase our recordings.

Americymru: Any plans to visit the USA?

We have no plans at present to re-visit the U.S.A.unless one of your readers wishes to open up discussions with us on such a proposal.

Americymru: Any final message for the members and readers of Americymru?

Our tour to the U.S.A. and Canada in 1996 was an unforgettable experience for those choir members and their wives who were able to make the tour. The warmth of the welcome and the hospitality we received at all of our concerts was remarkable and we were overwhelmed to find Welsh exiles and decendents having travelled hundreds of miles to be with us. Modern technology has made keeping in touch so much easier but it would be an exciting prospect to think that one day we could tour the U.S.A. for a second time.

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