Retired teacher Ednyfed Williams was only three when a famous male voice choir was formed in 1933 – 90 years later they’re both still here and still singing.
Ednyfed joined Côr Meibion Trelawnyd in 1955 and on Saturday, July 1, he will take his place in the bass section at their 90th Anniversary Concert, alongside tenor and Gio Compario star Wynne Evans at Rhyl’s Pavilion Theatre.
As well as celebrating the momentous milestone, the choir is aiming to support Tŷ Gobaith/Hope House with a raffle to raise money for the charity which has hospices in the Conwy Valley and Morda, near Oswestry, where it provides a vital service for children, young people and their families across most of North Wales and into Shropshire.
The choir, which rehearses every Tuesday evening at the Memorial Hall in Trelawnyd, is also planning to launch its new CD on the night of the concert.
Two years ago the choir, whose vice presidents include Oscar-nominated actor Sir Jonathan Pryce, featured in a touching documentary, Men Who Sing, directed by Ednyfed’s son, Dylan.
He decided to make the award-winning film after Ednyfed told him he was selling the family home in Dyserth and arranging his own funeral.
It highlights the choir’s desperate campaign to recruit “brown-haired men” to join the massed ranks of grey and bald heads, described as “adorable Welsh geezers” in a review in The Guardian newspaper following its cinema release.
Last year the documentary went on to win a BAFTA Cymru award with Dylan being named as the best director in the factual category.
The recruitment drive worked and 93-year-old Ednyfed now sings alongside the choir’s youngest member, 15-year-old Owain Davies Williams, a pupil at Ysgol Glan Clwyd, St Asaph.
The age gap of 78 years between Owain and Ednyfed is believed to be UK record.
Owain is among a clutch of younger members who’ve joined the choir recently.
Also among them are 17 year-old Ethan Lanceley, from Connah’s Quay, and Owen Barton Williams, 21, from Carmel, near Holywell.
Father of three Ednyfed, who hails from Frongoch, near Bala, was brought up in Wrexham and now lives in Denbigh.
During his career he taught Welsh at Rhyl High School and was Deputy Head at Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold.
He puts his longevity and good health down to the beneficial effects of singing and said: “Singing is well known for being good for your health. It’s wonderful for your breathing and for your chest.
“We’ve won the National Eisteddfod seven times and I’ve been in the choir for all those wins – the first was in 1964.
“I’ve been with them to Canada and to Germany, France and Holland.
The choir’s first conductor was William Humphreys, father of novelist Emyr, and they had notable successes and a number of competition wins including at the Lewis’s Eisteddfod in Liverpool, staged by the famous department store on the city’s Lime Street.
The choir resumed after the Second World War with 24 members and by 1955 when Ednyfed, joined there were 60 voices.
He had left Holywell High School to train as a teacher in Bangor and spent two years of National Service as Sergeant Williams, teaching illiterate soldiers to read and write.
He said: “When I joined the choir more than half of them spoke Welsh and I was singing with people who were from very different backgrounds to me.
“There were farmers and policemen and there were 14 miners from the Point of Ayr colliery who all lived in the village.
“It’s very different now but we do seem to be able to attract new and younger members. We have a 17-year-old and another young lad of 15 whose grandfather was in the choir.
“I still love it, hearing the different voices blending together, especially when Ann gets us singing quietly. That’s a beautiful sound.
“You see all those people from different backgrounds and they’re all joined by their love of singing.”
Two of the most recent recruits are 17-year-old Ethan Lanceley, from Connah’s Quay, and Owen Barton Williams, 21, from Carmel, while 14-year-old Owain Davies Williams, a pupil at Ysgol Glan Clwyd, St Asaph, has just started attending Tuesday evening choir practice.
Owen, a hairdresser in Shotton, has been with the choir for five years and said: “I love it – I’m a second tenor, or wherever Ann puts me – but it’s brilliant singing with someone like Ednyfed who’s so helpful and supportive.”
Meanwhile, Owain, who lines up with Ednyfed as a first bass, said: “I only joined last week and it’s been very good and very interesting and I’m really enjoying singing with such a good choir.”
Chairman Bryn Williams said, “The choir has a rich history and has travelled widely and made a number of CDs while our vice-chairman Sir Jonathan Pryce, who is from just up the road in Carmel, has written a foreword for the programme.
“We are moving with the times. Things have changed because there aren’t the coal mines and steelworks any longer and not even school assemblies where people used to sing so we have to change too.
“It’s about the brotherhood, not just about the singing. It’s about being together and looking after each other.
“We’re very much looking forward to performing with Wynne Evans because he’s more than just a singer, he’s an entertainer and he’s got a new TV show so maybe he’ll give us a plug.”
Musical Director Ann Atkinson, from Corwen, who has a distinguished career as a singer, conductor and tutor, said: “They’re just a lovely crowd of guys and very good to work with.
“Ednyfed Williams is still going strong at 93. He’s a very good bass and still loves it and is a great character. It’s great that he can still do it and still enjoy it.
“Different voices last longer than others and generally male voices last longer than female, they keep their shape but singing is very good from a health point of view.
“It’s very good for the breathing and for the soul.”
The Trelawnyd Male Voice Choir’s 90th Anniversary Concert takes place at the Pavilion Theatre in Rhyl on Saturday, July 1, at 7.30pm when they will be joined on stage by Wynne Evans and soprano Tesni Jones, from St Asaph. Tickets priced at £25 are available from www.rhylpavilion.co.uk.