David Thomas Jones


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Is Wales or the US the land of song?

user image 2009-01-01
By: David Thomas Jones
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Is Wales the Land of Song?It is a myth that all Welshmen can sing. It may have been true in days gone by but unfortunately not today. In the good old days when chapels were in the heart of every community and every village had a choir whether it was a male voice, mixed or ladies, communities would sing at a drop of a hat. If you were not in a choir then you were taught to sing in the chapel.When I was a lad closing time for pubs meant that the men would gather under the lamppost outside our house and even though often inebriated, they would sing in a wonderful four-part harmony. Today all that you see and hear on the streets at closing time is rowdy behaviour.The singing on the terraces of the National Stadium was something to behold but lately the quality of singing has deteriorated. It used to be easy to start a song it only took two or three to start and as everyone knew the words, everyone around you would join in.The chapels had begun to loose their influence in the 70s but the singing at the National Stadium was still strong and if you walked around Cardiff before games singing could be heard from every bar and each one packed with fans. This is where the non-chapelgoer would learn the songs. However, all that has changed, health and safety rules have imposed limits and such alehouses have doormen to prevent entry if they are anywhere near that limit (who has heard of anyone being crushed trying to buy a drink). The bars now all have jukeboxes or heaven forbid DJs. I ask you who wants to dance before a match? The music is so loud that conversation is out of the question and starting a song is impossible.The WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) responded two years ago by starting a competition between the four rugby regions. Each region had to form a choir and would practice the songs and enter a competition, the winner would be chosen to sing the anthem at the Millennium Stadium before a game. It is a step in the right direction and I hope that the success of the Fron, Only Men Aloud and Ysgol Ganeuthwy have had nationally will make singing trendy again.Is the USA the land of Song?From what little I know of the USA I do not think that there is such a decline in singing in the USA. The choirs that have come across to Wales to compete have been youthful choirs with wonderful voices and always do well in competition.Your Universities have leagues for a cappella choirs, thats singing with out a piano or other instrument to accompany the choir (I would have to explain that term to most youngsters in Wales). These choirs seem to compete monthly to progress up the league to gain promotion. They audition for new members each year to replace member that have left the university as their courses finish. Such a competition would be impossible in the UK let alone Wales. You should be proud of the abilities of your youngsters. Is singing part of the curriculum in US schools?Check Myspace for details of two of the American University choirslisten to Divisi a ladies a cappella choir from Eugene Oregonwww.myspace.com/uodivisiListen to SoCal Vocal a mixed choir from Los Angeles, Californiawww.myspace.com/socalvocals

David Thomas Jones
01/05/09 08:50:04PM @david-thomas-jones:
Wales is the land of song again WALESS reputation as the home of choral singing is enjoying a revival thanks to popular television shows and chart-topping albums in 2008.That is the view of two of the top men in the business in North Wales who say they hope to once again see an active choir in every North Wales community.Chairman of the Dee Valleys Fron choir David Jones, and Tim Rhys-Evans, conductor for Cardiffs Only Men Aloud!, both say the tradition of choral singing has been run-down in recent years largely by declining chapel attendance, and competing leisure activities.But now three chart-topping albums by the Fron, plus the success of Only Men Aloud! and Bangor youth choir Ysgol Glanaethwy in the BBC talent show Last Choir Standing, are leading a come-back.The Fron choir, dubbed the oldest boy-band in the world, signed a lucrative recording deal after they were spotted by manager Daniel Glatman performing at a Llangollen wedding in 2005.Yesterday Mr Jones said there was always room for more than one Welsh choral success story but competition between choirs has always been intense.He said: In Wales we have an incredible tradition of male voice singing. Every mining area in Wales had an amazing choir.I remember the days when there would be about 25 choirs competing at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.The rivalry was intense but when the competition was over theyd get together in the beer tent and the singing and the camaraderie was amazing.Mr Jones said Only Men Aloud! had tried to take choirs in a new direction by doing dancing routines and singing pop numbers like the Beach Boys God Only Knows.But he believes the Frons more traditional repertoire appeals to a different audience.We couldnt do what they do twirling round with the canes like that but conversely they probably couldnt do some of the big male voice choir arrangements we do.We see it possibly as a different concept and we think theres room for both.Weve got a hard core of followers. Weve sold over a million records, weve got tours planned and a full diary. You have to move with the times, but you must never lose sight of what our tradition is.Only Men Aloud! conductor Tim Rhys-Evans agrees there is a need to protect the Welsh heritage.He said: I started the choir eight years ago and it was always my dream to inject a little bit of vitality into the fantastic heritage we have here in Wales. I think weve managed to do that in part.He is delighted their success on television talent show Last Choir Standing has led to something of a renaissance in choral singing.The biggest prize from this competition has been the reports Ive been getting about membership of choirs going through the roof.Ysgol Glanaethwy musical director Cefin Roberts said: Young people have always liked to sing, its getting them to continue singing once theyve finished school that is the key.But theres a great deal more interest now. Source:Eryl CrumpDaily Post Dec 27 2008 Ysgol Glanaethwy competing in BBC One's "Last Choir Standing" Competition
Roy Norry
01/02/09 02:42:01AM @roy-norry:
I live on the perimeter of North Wales on Deeside in what could be described as little Liverpool since over the years it has become inhabited more and more with commuting scousers than with the Welsh, and with that, in pubs has come sky television, juke boxes, local council orders about noise levels, residents who complain at the drop of a hat and so on. It raised a wry smile when you spoke about folks gathering around the lamp post to sing impromptu. If that happened today, residents would think nothing of making an immediate complaint, the police would have to the power prosecute you for disturbing the peace, or holding an un-authorised gathering or both, the council would slap an order on you, you might even get an ASBO if you did it again, and PRS would probably be successful in suing you for copyright infringement and unlicensed public performance. Such is our very changed world today. Being politically correct and society being more and more determined to ensure that your 'fun' doesn't upset anyone has surely seen an end to that idylic picture you painted of days gone by. In other words, the core 'spirit' has gone from our communities, and certainly around here, singing is rarely heard save for the dodgy cabaret artist in the labour club on a Saturday night, and they are usually scousers doing the "d' Welsh Circuit, ay lah - cum ed" ! (Scousers have a language all of their own).Oh how I long to live in a small Welsh village in the mountains. Surely there is some 'singing spirit' left in some of those in Wales?. My favourite memory is attending the Eisteddfod in Llangollen for the first time and ending up in the Jenny Jones to be treated to a non-stop impromtu performace of welsh choir members singing their heads off untill way early in the morning. Great days. True spirit.
Ceri Shaw
01/01/09 10:09:19PM @ceri-shaw:

Unfortunately for me I was thrown out of the school choir when at age 13 the inevitable happened and I became a cracked alto. Ever since then as a Welshman I dutifully croak like an asthmatic frog whenever theres communal singing to be done. But I agree with the point being made here....one of the best nights I ever spent in the pub was at The Prince of Wales in Llanberis. At around eight on saturday night they unplugged the TV and the jukebox and fired up the electric organ in the corner of the bar. There followed an evening of solo and group performances , some of outstanding quality climaxed by a very beery ( and not so outstanding but certainly spirited ) rendition of the anthem at he end of the night. Thats what needs to happen in more pubs in Wales if singing is to become "trendy" again in my opinion.

btw...diolch yn fawr for the Divisi link. Just listening to them now...superb!