Choral Singing, Blaengarw & Llangeinor

Kindly submitted by C Davies, written by his father, T.H. Davies

Choral singing has a long and creditable tradition in the Garw Valley dating back to 1886. Commenced with the formation of the then known Pontycymmer Male Choir. This party was very successful at many Eisteddfodau and reached its Zenith in 1891 by winning the National Eisteddfod at Swansea under the conductorship of Tom Glyndwr Richards (Tommy Travellers as he was best known).

Glyndwr left the Garw in November 1895 for Mountain Ash where a greater scope would be found for his talents. Later he conducted Resolven Mixed Choir. After his departure a Mr Edwards, clerk at the Ocean Colliery took over for a while. In the year 1897 Mr Evan Anthony returned to Blaengarw from college to take up a teaching appointment and was appointed conductor of the Male Voice Party which now became known as the Garw Male Voice Party. Very successful at numerous Eisteddfodau and in 1909 at Cardiff won the International Competition for Male Voice Choirs out of 17 competitors. Madame Clara Novello Davies and Laurent de Rille, France, adjudicators.

Mr Anthony left the Garw in 1906 for a headship at Fishguard. In the autumn of 1908 the Party was re-organised and Mr John Butler was appointed conductor and his sister Sarah Butler accompanied. Happily with us today in the valley. Mr Butler conducted the Party very successfully for 35 years until he left the Garw for Ystradgynlais.

The Party was invincible on many Test pieces and won hundreds of valuable prizes. They were considered one of the Front Rankers of Welsh Male Voice Choirs. They performed two operas “Blodwen”-Parry, and “David & Goliath”-Jenkins and did much work for Charity. After Mr Butler’s departure spasmodic meetings for such Eisteddfods (sic) as Treorchy Annual under various conductors has been the only occasions for getting together. Today we are without a Male Choir.

Mixed Choirs has held a very distinguished place both in Competition and Oratorios. In the Year 1888 Tom Bedford Richards a pupil of Dr Joseph Parry came to Blaengarw. He was a pioneer of the Tonic Solfa as also was Jeremiah Lewis of Pontycymmer whom later moved to Ogmore Vale. Both did much to encourage young people to learn to read music, thereby improving the Choral singing.

Evert winter some Church or Chapel Choir would perform Cantatas in character or an Oratorio apart from Gymanfa work which was a great event. On the Great Day only members with a card marked “Côr” would be allowed to the gallery. Today Gymanfa organisers solicit singers from every denomination to come and assist and to fill the gallery.

The first Ladies Choir in the valley was formed at Blaengarw in 1915 and did some useful work for Charitable Organisations. Later under various conductors it entered the competitive world and competed at a few national Eisteddfodau.

Light Operas has for over 40 years been a great feature of the musical activities of the valley. Brass Bands and Orchestras also been very prominent since the formation of its first Drum & Fife in 1886.

Yes, music was the Life Blood of the Garw for a very long, long period. At various times it possessed two large choirs numbering 200 voices each; competing at the same Eisteddfods, as well as Male Voice. Three rehearsals a week were common and full attendance guaranteed at each without neglecting their Chapel or Church work.

Children’s Choirs were a great feature before the Great Depression in the Coalfield 1925 and onwards.



Works rendered by the Choirs:

Messiah; Judas; Creation; Hymn of Praise; Elijah: Eli; Jeptha; Judith; Seasons; St Pauls; Gweddi Habacac; Storm, Tiberius; Holy City; Acis & Galatea; Prynydigaeth y Byd.
Many have been repeated over the years.


The valley has produced many notable singers and instrumentalists, some World Fame:

  • Lewys T. James – baritone. Winner 2 Nationals and an International Competition held at Paris 1900. Open to the world, 500 competitors.
  • David Evans – Bass. Now at Aberystwyth 83 years of age.
  • Tom Williams – Blaengarw
  • David Thomas – Penclawdd. Now Bridgend
  • Jennie (Davies) Ellis – Blaengarw. Now Cardiff
  • Maldwyn Evans – Tenor. Blaengarw
  • Instrumentalist Mr Hyam Freedman
  • Gwyn Edwards – Pantygog. Now with BBC Symphony. Son of John Edwards – Pantygog


Notable Conductors from 1886:

Tom Morgan A.C; T B Richards A.C.; David Morgan; John Phillips (Ffrwydwyllt); John Phillips junior; Daff Davies; Tom Fox; James Garfield, and John Edwards.

Bethania Blaengarw

Daniel Jones 1882

John Jones

David Morgan Y Gof

Wm. Brazell

Tom. B. Richards A.C. 1888

Evan Anthony

Tom Jones

Daniel Howells

Jno. Francis 1947


Mount Zion Blaengarw

Harry Lewis


W Llewellyn


Nebo Blaengarw

Robt. Llewellyn

John Evans Bookseller

T Glyndwr Richards

Evan David

Tom Morgan A.C.

John Llewellyn

Geo. Price

W.J. Williams A.T.S.C.

Tommy Christopher

Willie Roberts

St James’ Church Blaengarw

Joseph Richards

Wm. Plummer

David Lewis

Obediah Griffiths

Willie Plummer

Evan Griffiths

Trinity Blaengarw

Edward Emmanuel

David Tudor

P. Thomas

Fred. Thomas

Tabernacle Blaengarw

John David

Isaac Davies

David Owen

David T. Bound

Rachel Wheeler


Orchestral & Opera Conductors

John Edwards

Oliver S. Morgan

C. James

Sarah Butler

Zion Pontycymmer

John Edwards

Wm. Bowen

A. J. Hills

Noddfa Pontycymmer

John Phillips (Ffrwydwyllt)

John Phillips (Junior)

Tom Phillips

Sarah Thomas

Gwyn Jones

Nazareth Pontyrhyl

Wm. Thomas

Dafydd Powell

Dafydd Braund


Jeremiah Lewis

Moses Thomas

Tom Fox

John Butler A.T.S.C

John Fox

John Lewis (Hirwaun)

Sardis Bettws

Llewellyn John

Oliver Davies

William Griffiths

Joel Griffiths


English Congregational

Morgan Hughes

J.R. Jones

E.W. Davies

Wynford Davies

Fife & Brass Bands

Harry Lewis

Micka Miles

J Smith

– Pemberton

Geo. Evans

W Layman



Jno. Absolom*


* the only one to bring back a Prize from London Band 


W.J. Norton

– Canton

Tom Rees

Joe. Osborne

Unattached and Competitive Conductors

Edward Evans

Jenkin Evans

Watkin Williams

Robert Williams (Brawd)

T. H. Davies 1st Ladies Choir in Garw

Tom Lewis

Gomer Treharne

John Thomas Cwmbwrla


4 comments Add yours
  1. Hello
    I am searching for information on William Bowen who was a member of the GARW MALE VOICE SOCIETY.
    William was born about 1851 in Pontycymmer son of Thomas Bowen and Ann Waters, he married Elizabeth Cousins,
    his son Joseph was my grandfather who died at the Somme in 1916. I am in Australia where my grandmother emigrated
    to in 1920 with her second husband Thomas Emlyn Griffiths.
    Hoping you can help me

  2. Hello Maureen,
    I will be having a look into your enquiry, and coming back to you as soon as possible. If you have any further information about your relatives that you think may be of help please contact me direct via my email
    I believe your grandfathers name is celebrated on the Garw Valley’s Roll of Honour T/Lieut. Joseph Jones Bowen, Welsh regiment, 9/4/1918.

  3. Hi Maureen,
    If you could send your email address to me, I will put you in touch with someone who may be able to help with this enquiry.

  4. We are searching for information on William Hendry Radcliffe a tenor with the 8 welsh miners he died in august 1922 aged approx. 47. Have you heard of them?

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