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A Message from our Chairman Mr David Manning

“Wales is truly the land of song”, a quote made by Queen Victoria in 1872 after an Aberdare man by the name of Caradog, with a choir of 500 voices, won the prestigious National Choral Competition in the Crystal Palace, London. Whether this was the inspiration for the establishment of Cwmdare Voices is a moot point however, the fact is that most villages and towns in Wales have a long tradition of male voice singing and most people have been brought up with music in their souls. Cwmdare, a village on the outskirts of Aberdare has a village pub by the name of Ton Gwlyd Fawr and it was there after a typical sing-a long with a few pints of ale that the idea of a choir was formed. The first practice took place in the village Miners Welfare Club in June 2012 when 22 potential choristers turned up. To be fair it was a bit chaotic at first with little musical direction and with musical ability somewhat low on the agenda. However, that certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those congregated there. So, what about a name? Most felt that it was all a bit of fun centred around the pub and Village Club so a fun name was required. Consequently “Only Drunks Allowed” was to be the latest addition on the Welsh male voice choir scene. Things however started to improve when Gwilym Jones, a retired music teacher took the reins. He provided the initial direction for the boys and turned us from fun pub singers into a recognisable male voice choir. We became good enough to perform at a few local concerts however, when a local church asked us to perform, we felt that “Only Drunks Allowed” as a name would not be appropriate, so “Cwmdare Voices” was formed. Although limited progress was made in the initial years, things turned out for the better when in January 2015 the Choir was lucky enough to recruit Doctor Michael Thomas MBE as its musical director. Mike had come from a well-established musical background and was a current MD for Pelenna Valley Male Voice Choir. He assured us that he was quite prepared to take on the challenge as well as keeping his direction of his current choir. An arrangement which has continued to this day which has enabled both choirs to join together on the bigger occasions to provide a magnificent choral force. We are also very lucky to have Andrew Chinnock on board as our musical accompanist. Andrew is a very accomplished musician who is well respected in Welsh choral society and is a great asset to the Choir. In 2023 the Choir celebrated its 11th anniversary and for a new choir on the block, we have achieved some remarkable successes. We have completed several British tours and also have had a memorable tour of Germany. We have sung in Cathedrals and churches, in clubs and festivals and have even achieved one of our early objectives of singing on the pitch at a Welsh Rugby international match at the impressive Principality Stadium in front of 80,000 fans. Basically, the Choir has gone from strength to strength and can arguably now compete with some of the more established male voice choirs. Perhaps an important aspect of the Choir has been its ability to fund raise for charity and over the years charities such as Riding for the Disabled, Velindre Cancer Hospital, the Rowan Tree Cancer Care Charity and Home Start have benefited from our involvement. The Choir survived the lockdowns that Covid imposed thanks to an innovative weekly zoom practice that Mike Thomas organised which allowed us to come back even stronger. In July 2022 Cwmdare Voices took the lead in organising a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Caradog’s win. Caradogfest, as it was called, assembled approximately 450 voices to perform as a massed choir on the Town square, with further choir stages throughout the Town. We have recently joined other choirs to perform at the prestigious Welsh Proms, we have undertaken several short tours in the UK, sung in Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Millennium Theatre, Cardiff City Hall, Saint David’s Cathedral and have been the lead choir in successful tours to Australia and more recently to the Celtic Festival in Barbados. The Choir has a happy and relaxed ambience with a fun loving social side and is always very welcoming to new members. We have maintained a buoyant membership over the years which currently stand at about 40. We have a very optimistic ethos within the Choir and we are happy to explore any avenue that might enable us to pass on our enthusiasm to our audiences. We look forward to many happy and progressive future years together. Thank you, Dave Manning Chairman

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