History of Rhayader & District Male Voice Choir

On a cold winters evening back in 1957 in the back room of a local public house in Rhayader 4 gentlemen, a Bank Manager, a Farmer and 2 Quarry Drivers formed what was later to become the Rhayader and District Male Voice Choir.

Humble beginnings you might think indeed

But its strength lay in the enthusiasm and dedication to learn and sing music of its some 3 dozen members who were eager to set themselves up as a competent male voice choir.

From those early days the choir went forward to face the 60’s with great enthusiasm and competing with great success in many local Eisteddfodau and other competitive festivals throughout Mid-Wales.

Much of its early success was due to the expertise and enthusiasm of the late Afan Jones, who was its conductor in those early days.

And his memory is very much alive today when some of the longer serving members will relish in relating the tales and escapades that went on amongst its members during this period.

In these early days the Choir was served by Mrs Vera Davies as its accompanist.

Afan served the Choir as its conductor until 1978, the year in which he sadly passed away

It was at this time that Mr David James was appointed as the new conductor of the Choir and a young man namely Nick Rogers was appointed as Deputy Conductor. It was also during this period the Choir made their first appearance together with the massed choirs of 1000 Voices at the Royal Albert Hall in London and which they have continued to do so on many occasions since.

At this time the Choir also began their summer season of concerts in several of the larger hotels in Llandrindod Wells and which allowed them to take their music to wider audiences throughout the United Kingdom.

Back in 1966 a young lady joined the Choir namely Miss Pamela Bufton as its accompanist. An accomplished pianist who continued to give the Choir 43 years of virtual ever present service hardly missing a rehearsal or a concert until her retirement in 2009. A truly remarkable lady.

Pam was later awarded the Silver Kite Medallion by the Chairman of Powys County Council for her services to the Rhayader and District Male Voice Choir.

Since then of course the Choir have appeared on many stages and venues throughout the United Kingdom and abroad.

In 1981 the Choir were honoured to sing before His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during his visit to Rhayader.

By the time the mid 80’s arrived the Choir was very well established and its members swelled by the arrival of singers from other parts of the county and who would prove to be a great asset to the fortunes and success of the Choir.

Such a person was a young man who soon became its Conductor by name of Nick Rogers and who proved to be a youthful and enthusiastic leader and who attracted many young voices to the Choir, thereby ensuring its continuation for many years to follow.

The early 90’s saw the continued success of the Choir in many aspects and its reward in 1993 was the invitation to join the Choir of the World of 10,000 voices at Cardiff Arms Park together with Sir Tom Jones. A spectacular event with its fireworks and natural thunder and lightning to say the least! This event was again repeated the following year with Dame Shirley Bassey.

In 1994 the Choir broke new ground in its short history by going abroad. The Choir was once again invited to be part of the World Choir this time in Atlanta City, Georgia, USA. Singing in both the Atlanta Dome and another large Cathedral with gospel choirs from the Deep South. A truly remarkable experience for everyone concerned.

This was again repeated the following year with a Choir tour of Ireland and once again joining the World Choir in Lansdown Road, Dublin.

Also in this year 1995 the Choir took very much centre stage together with Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Vera Lynn, Max Bygraves and many other stars and in the presence of Her Royal Highness The Queen and Prince Phillip together with other Heads of State at the VE Celebrations in Hyde Park, London. A memorable occasion indeed.

However in 1995 the Choir lost the services of its conductor, Nick Rogers, who moved away to Swansea to further his career in banking. But at the time were fortunate enough to secure the services of a well-known Baritone of national Eisteddfod success, Mr Richard Jones of Llangurig, who agreed to become the Choirs new conductor.

Richard remained with the choir until 1998 when the baton passed to another local accomplished musician, Mr David Hatton, and who remained with the choir until his retirement in 2016.

In 2001 the Choir toured Northern Germany giving a series of concerts and meeting many new friends and inviting them back to Rhayader the following year.

In 2005 the Choir were fortunate to obtain the services of a delightful young lady, Miss Bethan Rees, who joined the Choir to cover the inevitable retirement of its long serving accompanist, Miss Pam Bufton. Bethan has proved to be an outstanding talent and we are both proud and fortunate to have her as our accompanist today.

At this period in time the Choir also made guest appearances at the BBC Studios in London, the Symphony Hall in Birmingham and recorded their own tape at the Black Mountain Studios in Swansea.

Since then the Choir have made several recordings on both tape and CD which have found their way throughout Mid-Wales and parts of the United Kingdom and abroad Via their summer concerts at the Glen Usk Hotel in Llandrindod Wells.

These were busy times for the Choir and now in 1997 kitted out in their new smart uniforms and with their electric piano they continued to give their services for many charity events throughout Mid-Wales and the Border Counties. Together with their regular attendance at the Wales Festival Service of Remembrance at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff and organised by the British Legion and which they have continued to do so to this day.

It was during this period that the Choir continued to entertain audiences throughout Mid-Wales and the Border Counties at home, and with a visit in 2006 to France to join up with the South Wales Association Select Choir in a prestigious concert held at the large theatre in Euro-Disney in Paris under the baton of the famous Alwyn Humphreys.

This was later followed by a tour of Russia and return visits to both Ireland and France. More recently the Choir have visited and performed in Scotland and Yorkshire.

In 2014 the choir received a prestigious award from PAVO (Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations) in recognition of its services to community life throughout Powys over many years.

A far cry from those early days in 1957!

The membership of the Choir today is as strong as ever and the dedication and enthusiasm of its members is as firm as those early days in 1957.

Today under its new conductor, Mr Jonathan Pearce, and its talented accompanist, Miss Bethan Rees, the Choir look forward with great optimism to the future.

This year the Choir will celebrate their 60th Anniversary with a celebration dinner in October followed by a visit to Ypres in Belgium and the Menin Gate.

In 2018 the Choir will once again join the massed choirs of 1000 voices at the Royal Albert Hall in London to celebrate the Festival of Male Voice Choirs.

Over the last 60 years the Rhayader and District Male Voice Choir have appeared at many venues at home and abroad and would like to take this opportunity to thank their many friends and audiences that have supported them and appreciated their singing. Long may it continue.

Graham Benbow