Voices of Wales visit Whistler 

WHO: Cwmbach Welsh Male Choir


WHEN: Tuesday, Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.

Whistler will get a glimpse into the time-honoured traditions of Wales later this month when the internationally acclaimed Cwmbach Male Choir performs at MY Place.

"An all male choir?" you might query. It’s true, this style of music group is not as common in North America, but for its100 members, being invited to sing with the Cwmbach Choir is an honour.

Established in 1921, it’s said that Cwmbach (pronounced koom-bawk) started with a cricket match in Aberdare, where bored spectators began some impromptu singing which eventually carried on to an all male voice party at the local hall. Cwmbach has survived through generations of families, through hard times like the Depression and flourished as opportunities for public performance and competition grew. Today, it is internationally respected.

"We’ve performed in the best of places and the worst of places," choir member and chairman, Brian Williams, told Pique from his Wales home last Friday, just hours before departing for British Columbia. Cwmbach – whose members range in age from 16 to 89 – has visited France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Johannesburg, Capetown and Canada, with guests including The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Patricia Kern, Tony Bennett and Tom Jones.

"In 1995, we performed before three quarters of a million people in Hyde Park, including the Queen. Later that same week, we were in a senior citizen’s home where the choir members outnumbered the senior citizens," Williams laughs.

Cwmbach has visited Ontario twice as the guests of the Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir. Although the Toronto choir was only established in 1995, it follows the example of its United Kingdom predecessors by singing traditional and contemporary music, hymns, folk and popular show tunes and even a few Welsh songs, even though not all members speak the language. Anyone can audition and both choirs stress that one doesn’t need to have the voice of a soloist to be accepted, just the capability to stay in tune and the enthusiasm to entertain.

The Vancouver Orpheus Choir has invited Cwmbach for its first tour of B.C. and Williams says he anticipates a warm response due to the large number of Welsh descendents on the West Coast.

"Everywhere we go people are always anxious to talk to us after the show, about where their families come from or just curious about who we are. It’s a great exchange of culture."

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