A former music teacher who taught international opera singer Sion Goronwy as a child is to be reunited on stage with the singing star in a celebratory concert in Bala marking 40 years of the Welsh ladies’ choir she founded.

Manon Easter Lewis and her 40-strong choir, Côr Merched Edeyrnion, will perform with a star-studded line-up at Theatr Derek Williams at Ysgol Godre’r Berwyn on Saturday, October 5.

They will be toasting four decades of singing achievements – including no fewer than 11 wins in the ladies’ choral competition at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

Among the special guests at the concert will be Welsh bass Sion Goronwy, from Rhyd Uchaf, near Bala, Tri Tenor Cymru, Sorela and Linda Griffiths.

Manon, who worked as a special education needs and music teacher for 30 years at Ysgol y Berwyn, previously taught Sion, who made his Royal Opera debut in 2016/17, when he was at school and said it was an absolute privilege to be sharing the stage in honour of the choir’s achievements.

“I’m absolutely delighted Sion has agreed to come along and perform with us on the evening,” she said.

“Sion was a pupil at my school and I remember him well. He didn’t start singing until the sixth form and I accompanied him in some school concerts. I always knew the potential was there, something extra special.

“Music was a big part of school life. It will be extra special to be reunited for this concert. He’s a home-grown talent and he was very happy to come along. I’m sure it’ll be an emotional night.”

The concert, which is being staged on Saturday 5 October, is being compered by comedian and TV presenter Dilwyn Morgan, who lives in Bala and who is now a Gwynedd county councillor.

The choir has also commissioned the popular composer, Robat Arwyn, to compose a special 40th birthday song, with words written by the acclaimed poet and script-writer, Mererid Hopwood, which will be sung at the concert.

The choir was formed by Manon in 1979 and mainly drew members from local villages and the towns of Bala and Corwen.

The 79-year-old grandmother-of-two, who lives in Corwen, previously conducted a successful children’s choir at the school which also competed in competitions.

“Every three years, when they got to Year 9, they’d leave me and move on to the senior school and I’d have to start all over again. I decided I wanted to do something more permanent but didn’t really know how to go about it,” she said.

“I decided to call people I knew in every village around Bala and Corwen and ask them if they would mind contacting people who they knew could sing and ask whether they wanted to come along to the old Corwen Pavilion.

“I hoped I’d get 20 turn up and ended up having 40! They have been coming along ever since.”

To assess the vocal range of her new recruits, Manon organised an “X-Factor style” singing trial from which she was able to divide her singers into first soprano, second soprano, alto and second alto.

“I needed to hear all their voices so I asked them to sing Bro Edeyrnion and it has been our signature song ever since,” she said.

“It’s been played at every concert we’ve performed. Over the years, we’ve sung more vocal ranges than four, when we were competing, we had to sing very difficult songs and had around eight.”

The choir, which meets every Monday at Capel Seion in Corwen, became a formidable force on the competition scene, with 11 wins at the National Eisteddfod.

“It was such an achievement. We chose very difficult songs and commissioned some too. Before the National Eisteddfod we’d practice from the January twice a week and then for the final two weeks before the competition we’d practice every night. That’s how we were able to gain that special standard needed to win.”

As well as success at the National Eisteddfod, in 1992 the choir won the Silver Cup at the prestigious Verona Music Festival in Italy.

“It was the only time we ever went along,” said Manon, who has a grown-up son.

“There were so many choirs competing from lots of different countries. We just couldn’t believe it when we won. We’ve always been competitive but in a nice way and everyone was really supportive of us.”

One of the choir’s highlights came in 2015 when they were invited to the Welsh chapel in Liverpool to sing at a concert celebrating the centenary of the voyage of the clipper, The Mimosa, which took settlers to establish the Welsh colony in Patagonia 1865.

Among Manon’s most memorable achievements was when the choir was asked to sing at the Santa de Montserrat monastery in Barcelona, Spain.

“We had to provide a tape to make sure we were good enough,” recalled Manon.

“It was a programme of A Capella singing and we were on for around 20 minutes which was quite something. The monastery was full, there were even people sitting in the aisles. You could hear a pin drop. That experience always stands out for me.”

The choir travelled across the globe and enjoyed a singing festival in Barbados where they were among nine guest choirs to sing in a chapel.

Manon also used to recruit seven young accompanists from her former school to give them experience of the choir scene and national competitions.

“Over the years we’ve learned 150 songs – that takes quite a bit of doing. We always ended our concerts with a composition called ‘Cymru’ which is a song of ours about Wales. It always went down very well when we sang it in other countries,” she said.

“Corwen also has the male voice choir, Côr Meibion Glyndwr, with whom we have performed on several occasions. For such a small place to have two choirs is remarkable.”

Côr Merched Edeyrnion still has a loyal membership of around 40 singers aged from 50 up to 90– 10 of whom are original members.

It has not competed for the past 10 years, instead preferring to host annual St David’s Day and Christmas concerts.

“It’s part of our life and I’ve enjoyed it so much, they are such a good crowd to be around,” said Manon.

“There’s a big social side to the choir too. I’ve never had a crossed word with any of them!

“I just feel so proud at what we’ve achieved over the last 40 years. The celebration concert is a one-off occasion and it will be a memorable evening.”

The concert will be held at 7.30pm on the evening of Saturday, October 5. Tickets are available at the Awen Meirion shop in Bala and from choir members.