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.
Daniel Jones 1882
David Morgan Y Gof
Tom. B. Richards A.C. 1888
Jno. Francis 1947
Mount Zion Blaengarw
JW Sugg ATSC
John Evans Bookseller
T Glyndwr Richards
Tom Morgan A.C.
W.J. Williams A.T.S.C.
St James’ Church Blaengarw
David T. Bound
Orchestral & Opera Conductors
Oliver S. Morgan
A. J. Hills
John Phillips (Ffrwydwyllt)
John Phillips (Junior)
John Butler A.T.S.C
John Lewis (Hirwaun)
Fife & Brass Bands
* the only one to bring back a Prize from London Band
Unattached and Competitive Conductors
Robert Williams (Brawd)
T. H. Davies 1st Ladies Choir in Garw
John Thomas Cwmbwrla