Glyndwr’s Mountain Ash Male Choir

Mountain Ash Choir, 1919

Glyndwr’s Male Choir, Mountain Ash, Wales, Fourth American Tour, 1919 (click to enlarge)
Standing, left to right: J O Jones, M.E. (President), J N O Williams, Rhys Thomas, Hy. Evans, D. Teifi Davies (Tresurer), Stephen Jenkins, Tom Davies (Secretary), Geo. Anthony, D Pennar Williams, D J Davies M.E. (President).
Sitting: M J Edwards, Sydney Charles, B Davies (Chairman), T Glyndwr Richards (Conductor), W Evans, L.R.A.M. (Accompanist), Gomer David, Dd Lewis.
(Names sourced from p123 of Bernard Baldwin’s Mountain Ash and Penrhiwceiber Remembered in Pictures.)

“The famous choir from the Welsh colliery town of Mountain Ash will give a concert before the King and Queen . . . at Windsor Castle tomorrow afternoon.”
(The Times of London, 17 April 1922)

The Mountain Ash choir of this period, and earlier, is well-known for its travels and for performing for the occasional head of state. All I know of them is that they maintained a level of success over several years, this coinciding with the stewardship of Glyndwr Richards. The above photo states that 1919 was the occasion of their fourth American Tour, their first, I believe, being in 1908 when they performed for President Roosevelt. On the 1919-1921 tour, they performed for President Harding.

The Times article goes on to say that most of its members were coal-miners and that the choir had formed in about 1904. Professor T. Glyndwr Richards’s stewardship of the choir is such that they are frequently referred to as Glyndwr’s Mountain Ash Male Choir. Not everyone felt that the success was deserved: a correspondent in a later Times article finds the choir in fine voice individually but lamentable as a choir, with the “worst possible arrangements”, out-of-tune singing and constant vibrato.

The tours of America were not only notable for the success of a choir from a small industrial town but led to the choir being recorded in 1909, 1920 and 1926, with a record being released in 1926. This is available on youtube thanks to a collector of old records.

I am not clear on the origins of the choir and am not well enough to go much deeper into the matter right now. I note, with amusement, a reference in the Aberdare leader of 1907 to Glyndwr Richards’s success with a choir named Resolven, the paper noting that “a large number of its singers hailed from the banks of the Cynon” and going on to say, “We can only hope that he will repeat his success next year and for many years, but with just one qualification — let the choir be called Mountain Ash.” (There is a story behind this event: rivalry, bitterness and splits, according an earlier Leader article.)

A letter to the Aberdare Leader in December 1908 provides a glimpse of the American tour of that year. Despite living in the charmingly named Altoona, Pennsylvania, the correspondent is from Mountain Ash but still receives the Leader: “I am the son of Mr. Wm. Thomas, of 86, Duffryn-street, Mountain Ash, and my wife is the daughter of Mr. Wm. Rowlands, late of Mountain Ash, but now of Glyn-neath.”

“The Mountain Ash Male Voice Party sang at the High School Auditorium on November 5th, and there was a very large audience. Their singing was ‘entrancing.’ This was the term used in the local paper. They had to repeatedly respond to loud encores.”

Several soloists are named: “Messrs. David Davies, David Williams (bass), Anthony Jones, David Cynon Evans, Godfrey Price, and Tom Thomas sang solos in excellent style, and were greeted with applause.”

The Discography of American Historical Recordings shows that the choir recorded 6 songs in 1909, one of which is available for listening.

Glyndwr Mountain Ash Welsh Male Choir, 15 February 1909, New York – Soldiers’ Chorus (Gounod)

Full list of recordings for Glyndwr Mountain Ash Male Voice Choir.

There is more that could be said about the choir, and perhaps more of the recordings could be made available for listening. Not me, though, not right now.

Given the 1926 recording of the choir, I rather like this brief footage of Mountain Ash at that time.

Articles referred to above are available here –  Mountain Ash Choir newspaper articles

You tube – provided by cdbpdx


UPDATE 5 April 2015

Whilst building up a list of references to the choir in US newspapers, I came across this image of each choir member published in the Salt Lake Tribune on 07 January 1912.  The quality is not marvellous, leaving the text a little difficult to read in places, but it is nice to see names attached to faces.

Mountain Ash Choir members Salt Lake Tribune 07 January 1912

The Mountain Ash Choir, Salt Lake Tribune 1912 (click to enlarge)


Note: I have retained the high resolution of the original image, which in context may be viewed here.

UPDATE: Jan 2016.

I have posted a photo of the Royal Mountain Ash Glyndwr Concert Male Choir here.

11 responses to “Glyndwr’s Mountain Ash Male Choir

  1. Diana Little

    T Glyndwr Richards was my maternal Great-grandfather . I have lots of his music scores and note books. Despite looking into the choir’s history and hearing tales from my family this is the first time I’ve actually heard the choir. Thank you.
    Diana Little

    • Thank you, Diana, for commenting – it is lovely to hear from a family member of the man who took the choir to such international renown. Indeed, I think I first heard about the success of the choir when reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt.

      Thanks go to the youtube user for copying old records that must be very rare. That there are further recordings that might be made available is interesting and exciting. How that could come to be I am unsure, but I would love to see it happen, or make it happen if I can.

      The success of the choir is a wonderful, uplifting part of the history of the town, and I think it ought to be celebrated.

      Thank you again.

      Dave (silencedharp)

    • Elfryn Lewis

      Hi Diana,
      My grandfather, David Lewis sang with the choir – we believe in 1907 as we have a postcard from Denver to my father congratulating him on being 6. We believe that he was also in the 1919/20 tour and photographs show a David Lewis, Bass but I do not recognise the face as my grandfather – that of course may be because he was much older when I met him. I do know that he was a Bass however.

      I am wondering if in your great grandfather’s notebooks, he mentions members of the touring choirs by name.

      My interest extends beyond my grandfather because my father, Gwilym Lewis also went to the States with the choir in the 1920’s with his father and possibly 2 other brothers, Idwal Lewis and William Isaac Lewis.

      All were miners and they stayed in the States after the tour. My father returned to Mountain Ash in the late 20’s where in due course I was born – i am now in Australia. My uncles settled in Pennsylvania, My grandfather returned in 1939 before the outbreak of the War.

      I would be very grateful if you can review the notebooks to see if we can confirm the participation of my family.

      Incidentally, as you might know, the Mountain Ash RFC have formed a choir to carry on the tradition established by your great grandfather and coincidentally their present conductor is David Lewis – no relation however. – though my father, my maternal grandfather and a number of uncles all played for the Mount as the team is called.

      Many thanks,

      Elfryn Lewis

      • Hi, Elfryn,

        Thank you for posting: it is lovely to hear from someone with family connections to the choir. I hope Diana will be able to respond to your query.

        I am researching the early years of the Mountain Ash choir under the leadership of Glyndwr Richards, with their first tour of America as a suitable “end of chapter”. My research is very much at the information-collation stage but might be helpful to you to some degree.

        I have a reference to a D Lewis singing with the Mountain Ash choir in a newspaper article of 9 December 1905. The lack of detail is unhelpful but it is perhaps worth mentioning.

        As to the choir’s first tour of America, this is first mentioned in two newspapers published on 28 September 1907: by “Lucifer” in the Aberdare Leader, and in a news item in the Weekly Mail.

        I have a photo of the choir at this time, a 1908 postcard,Mountain Ash Choir but have not yet been able to identify all of the faces.

        The choir left for the tour on 23 September 1908, embarking at Southampton on the Adriatic. I have checked the passenger list and there is no reference to a D. Lewis.

        However, you mention a Denver postcard from your grandfather in 1907. That is interesting as I have been researching other choirs so that I can place Mount into context. The Rhondda Male Voice Party under the leadership of Mr John Broad toured America in 1907, leaving in September. There is no D Lewis in the Rhonddda Leader’s list of names but this was published in August 1907 before the choir left.

        Might your grandfather also be connected to this choir at this time?

        I realise that I am providing questions rather than answers but I will keep a note of your details to hand as I continue my research.

        Thank you.

        Dave [silencedharp]

    • Hi Diana
      I am writing an article about him for the Cynon Valley History Society and am interested in collecting info about him including the exact dates of all his
      American tours . Can you help me please

    • Could you let me know the year in which Thomas Richards died please? We think around 1940 or thereabouts.

  2. Pingback: Glyndwr’s Mountain Ash Male Voice Party 1908 | silencedharp

  3. Pingback: Photo: Royal Mountain Ash Glyndwr Concert Male Choir | silenced harp

  4. Gareth davies

    I believe my grandfather thomas davies was in the choir but did not go to the USA due to mining related illness he is pictured in the middle row 7th from the left as my father pointed him out to me years ago

  5. Gareth davies

    The photo I relate to is the 1908 postcard photo

  6. John D VANWYCK

    My grandfather DJ (David John) Davies made the tours of the Mountain Ash Choir from 1908 until 1929 when he was made a job offer and stayed in the USA. He sent for my Grand Mother and my Mother who was 14 and my Uncle Billy who was 11. Just now uncovering his diary and some pictures. I have the medal the group was presented at the Whitehouse when the group sang for President Teddy Roosevelt October 5, 1908. And a picture of the group in front of the Denver Post on September 4, 1912. ( long story about how that tour was postponed earlier that year but began in July of 1912)

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